Lionel Messi-inspired Argentina defeats Canada in opening game of Copa América


Lionel Messi broke appearance record as Argentina defeated Canada 2-0 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Thursday to start their Copa América championship defense.

In his 35th Copa América game, Lionel Messi set a record that had stood for more than 70 years. He also had a key role in Julián Álvarez and Lautaro Martínez’s goals for Argentina.

Although Canada, making their debut in this extended Copa América, was a huge underdog against the 15-time winner, they did miss a number of good scoring opportunities.

“This team defends like lions and creates scoring opportunities,” Argentina’s boss Lionel Scaloni declared following the game. “I indicated yesterday that Canada would be a tough opponent and that it would be a good test for us. Whatever the nature of the game, what matters is that the team always reacts.

In an exciting first half played in front of almost 70,000 spectators, both teams had opportunities. Argentina counterattacked from a corner, but Ángel Di María was unable to complete a one-on-one, and Canadian goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau stopped Alexis Mac Allister’s header.

Lionel Messi broke appearance record
Messi was appearing in a record-breaking 35th Copa América match. Hector Vivas/Getty Images

Where Copa America 2024 soccer matches are taking place

The US is hosting the Copa América 2024, a men’s soccer tournament for national teams from across North and South America, from June 20 to July 14 across 14 cities and 10 states.

Stephen Eustáquio had Canada’s finest chance of the half, but Emi Martínez stopped his headed attempt, and Alphonso Davies missed the rebound.

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Early in the second period, though, Argentina took the lead.

With a brilliant ball, Messi found Mac Allister, and although the Liverpool midfielder tangled awkwardly with Crépeau to miss the goal, he did set up Álvarez for the opening one.

Messi had two opportunities to score when he got behind the Canadian defence, but his first attempt was blocked by Crépeau and Derek Cornelius’ rearguard action, while his second attempt eluded the left-hand post.

Between Messi’s two breakaways, Jonathan David missed an open header, possibly Canada’s best chance of the game, and Argentina concluded the game with an excellent team goal.

Through deft build-up play, Messi found Martínez, who sent a shot between Crépeau’s legs to make it 2-0.

final paragraph of Lionel Messi’s appearance record

Argentina is now on a nine-match unbeaten run in the Copa América, having won the 2021 tournament as well as its third-place playoff against Chile in 2019. La Albiceleste has group-stage matches against Chile and then Peru in the coming days.
Victory in this year’s competition would be Argentina’s third-straight trophy in major tournaments, having won the World Cup in 2022.