July 19, 2024

World Champions Argentina and Canada Start Copa America Title Defense Triumph

World champions Argentina defeated Canada 2-0 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Thursday to begin their quest for back-to-back Copa America crowns in front of 70,564 spectators.

Argentina took the lead through a goal from Julian Alvarez in the 49th minute, but Max Crepeau of Canada’s outstanding goalkeeping combined with Lionel Messi’s unexpected lack of accuracy in front of goal kept the underdogs in the match until Lautaro Martinez ended it in the 88th.

Argentina, who had a large crowd wearing shirts with white and blue stripes, deserved to win, but Canada—which is rated 48th in the world—deserves a lot of praise for the way they battled the 15-time Copa America champions.

The first chance came to Alvarez, who was selected to Lautaro as Messi’s attacking strike partner, when he charged down an effort by Ismael Kone to clear the ball and broke free.

However, as he closed in on Canada’s Max Crepeau, the Manchester City forward used a strong touch that allowed him to smother the ball.

Messi then went close to opening the score himself, but his left-angled effort flashed just wide of the far post. This made him the most capped player in Copa America history. This was Messi’s 35th participation in his seventh tournament.

Even though the Argentines were taking advantage of holes in the Canadian defense, Jesse Marsch’s squad was engaging in midfield competition and producing a few half-chances.

Within the box, efforts from Liam Millar and Alphonso Davies were blocked, and in the thirty-minute mark, Tajon Buchanan missed a close-range attempt.

However, Crepeau made a great save on Alexis Mac Allister’s stooping header from an Angel Di Maria cross in the 40th minute, which was the first real save of the match.

But in order to make sure they ended the half on equal footing, Argentina needed Emiliano Martinez, their goalie, to play at the top of his game.

Stephen Eustaquio headed the ball powerfully from close range after Cyle Larin’s right wing cross, but Martinez made a quick stop to keep the score 0-0.

Break the impasse

However, Argentina broke the deadlock in less than four minutes of the second half when Messi threaded a pass through to Mac Allister, who was pulled down by Crepeau. However, Alvarez scored the loose ball before the referee could sound his whistle.

In a few of moments, Alvarez had another opportunity, but this time the diving Crepeau blocked him, and Canada could continue to battle.

After Marsch introduced winger Jacob Shaffelburg and changed to an aggressive 4-3-3 formation, they did it with a little more urgency and danger.

The Argentine defense appeared uneasy and under strain as Canada advanced players and took advantage of the open spaces.

However, they were almost caught off guard by a great counterattack as Martinez fired a fast long ball towards Messi. The audience thought the eight-time Ballon d’Or winner would make it goal, but he wasted the opportunity.

Crepeau parried his initial attempt, and even though Messi grabbed hold of the loose ball and attempted to circumnavigate the goalie, Derek Cornelius, who was covering him, easily cleared the ball.

Unbelievably, Messi had another excellent chance to find the goal, but this time he was unable to take it. Cutting in from the right with only Crepeau to beat, Messi opened up his body but missed the post with his attempt.

Although Argentina battled to end the game, they succeeded in doing so with two minutes left in normal time thanks to another outstanding performance from Crepeau, who kept out substitute Lautaro.

Another deft, defence-splitting pass from Messi found Lautaro, who made no mistake this time, sneaking past the charging Crepeau to make it 2-0.

Lionel Scaloni, the Argentine coach, was happy with his team’s passion but dissatisfied with the makeshift grass covering Atlanta’s artificial field.

“The key was to focus and finish the game, as that’s ultimately what matters,” he remarked.

As I usually say, there are moments when you are unable to play your game because your opponent is refusing to allow you. It was the pitch and the opponent in this instance. We had to play a different game, but the victory is what matters most,” he remarked.

Marsch was happy with his team’s readiness to compete on an equal footing with the greatest in the world.

“We had no fear when we played. We’ve learned a lot from it, he said, mainly that these guys are fun to play with.

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