Lionel Messi scores, Argentina pushes aside Canada to reach Copa América final

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ — The defining moment of Argentina’s penultimate step toward a Copa América repeat was like the rest of the climb: easy.

It was not simple. The Argentines had to work, think and sweat here at MetLife Stadium on a sultry Tuesday night in the first of two Copa semi-finals. They had to endure the occasional early scare.

But they swept Canada 2-0 to reach Sunday’s final. Their decisive goal was perhaps the most subtle, simple goal Lionel Messi will ever score, his first of the tournament. And their breakthrough, midway through the first half, was straightforward — literally.

It took just two passes, from centre-back to centre-midfielder, and then centre-midfielder to striker. The first, from Cristian Romero to Rodrigo De Paul, was harmless. But the second found Argentina’s Canada killer, Julián Álvarez.

His first touch was excellent. His second left Canadian defender Moïse Bombito on the grass. His third passed goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau to give Argentina the lead.

It was Álvarez who had made his breakthrough three weeks earlier, when these two teams met in the 2024 Copa América opener. That night in Atlanta, Canada, it lasted 48 minutes. Here, it lasted just 22.

In those 22 minutes the underdogs were playful. They found openings. They jumped forward on the counter. They threatened.

But they lacked the quality to take chances, and once they conceded, they were toast.

Messi almost eliminated the Reds just before half-time with a classic feint and right-footed shot.

About five minutes after the break he buried them.

He shot out of the blocks at the 2024 Copa América, ironically, with one of the most Cristiano Ronaldo goals of his glittering career. He passed to De Paul. He continued his run. After some pinball in the penalty box, he stuck his foot out to an Enzo Fernandez shot and poked, half-stroking it into the net.

He looked at the assistant referee, unsure if he was onside. But he was, so he jumped cautiously into Enzo’s arms, feeling a sensation he hadn’t felt since October in a competitive match against Argentina.

He had looked relatively ordinary in three previous 2024 Copa América matches. And, to be fair, so had Argentina.

The Albiceleste looked vulnerable in that opening match against Canada. They needed a late and fortunate goal from Lautaro Martinez to beat Chile. They rested their starting lineup in a meaningless group final against Peru. They then needed a penalty shootout — and a heroic goalkeeper, Emiliano Martínez — to beat Ecuador in the quarterfinals.

They went into this semi-final as unproven as a world champion can be, and at times they seemed to lack attacking ideas.

But they had enough to beat Canada again; they were sloppy at times, but enough.

They have enough to reach the final of a third major tournament in a row, where they will face their first strong opponent of the summer: Colombia or Uruguay.

Whether they have proven anything is not so relevant. They are 90 minutes away from another title.

LIVE COVERAGE IS OVER40 updates

  • END TIME: Argentina 2-0 Canada

    22′ Julián Álvarez scores after a nice assist from Rodrigo De Paul.

    51′ Lionel Messi scores his first goal of the tournament from an assist by Enzo Fernandez.

  • 88′ Nahuel Molina booked

    Molina is shown a yellow card.

  • 71′ Jonathan Osorio replaces Alphonso Davies

  • Both guys scored goals today

    This photo taken in September 2007 shows a 20-year-old Lionel Messi, who had begun his legendary Barcelona career just over four years earlier, helping to bathe Lamine Yamal, who was just six months old at the time, during a photo call in the locker room of the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, ​​Spain. Lamine Yamal is now a soccer sensation for both Spain and Barcelona and he is just 16 years old. (AP Photo/Joan Monfort)This photo taken in September 2007 shows a 20-year-old Lionel Messi, who had begun his legendary Barcelona career just over four years earlier, helping to bathe Lamine Yamal, who was just six months old at the time, during a photo call in the locker room of the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, ​​Spain. Lamine Yamal is now a soccer sensation for both Spain and Barcelona and he is just 16 years old. (AP Photo/Joan Monfort)

    (AP photo/Joan Monfort)

  • 51′ GOAL ARGENTINA

    Messi taps the ball in from a pass from Fernandez in the penalty area.

  • Second half starts now

    Argentina are just 45 minutes away from another Copa America final

  • 44′ Messi’s shot goes wide

Leave a Comment