Player Ratings: Messi Leads Argentina To Another Copa Final

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Under hot, sticky skies, Argentina and Lionel Messi secured their second straight Copa América final — and fourth in the past five tournaments — with a 2-0 victory over Canada on Tuesday. Thanks to goals from Manchester City’s Julián Àlvarez and Messi, Argentina secured a strong and somewhat painless victory over the Copa’s last remaining Concacaf nation. It was also Messi’s 109th international goal, moving him past Ali Daei for the second-most international goals of all time.

Canada, in typical Jesse Marsch fashion, started with a lot of energy as their high-pressure approach looked to make Argentina as uncomfortable as the weather at MetLife Stadium. Nashville SC’s Jacob Shaffelburg tested Gonzalo Montiel’s right side early in the game, but it ultimately came to nothing. As the first half developed, that Canadian pressure and aggression waned and Argentina began to take more control when Messi tried a low left-footed shot in the 12th minute. Canada didn’t budge and seemed to take advantage of the loose possession, but they still couldn’t find the right pass to fully threaten Argentina’s keeper Emiliano Martínez.

And when you play Argentina, you have to take every chance you get, because if you don’t, Lionel Scaloni’s team will make you pay in the end. After all, they are the top-ranked team in FIFA and the reigning champions of the World Cup and the Copa América, and for good reason. And in the 22nd minute, The Albiceleste took the lead after a great through ball from Rodrigo De Paul that found Àlvarez. It was Àlvarez’s second goal of the tournament and again, as in the opening group match, he initiated the scoring against Canada.

The evaporation of Canada’s in-your-face approach allowed Argentina to become the complete protagonist. And as for Messi’s first half? He was relatively quiet in terms of threat, but his movement in midfield and his ability to distribute the ball were there. In the 44th minute, a beautiful play between Ángel Dí María, Àlvarez and Messi almost ended with a goal from the Inter Miami CF star, but Messi put it just wide of Maxime Crépeau’s net. At the end of the first half, Argentina had over 60% possession and eight attempts. Apart from an attempt from a throw-in, which Martínez had to fend off Alphonso Davies, the reigning Copa América champions were in complete control.

The second half started in the same fashion and in the 51st minute Messi scored his first goal of the competition thanks to an assist from Enzo Fernández. At first it looked like Messi was offside and in sight of Crépeau, but upon closer inspection it was clear that Messi had been held offside by one of Canada’s straggling defenders. His tap counted and Argentina led 2-0 before the hour mark. It was Messi’s 28th goal in the last 25 games for the national team.

Canada pushed on after conceding the second goal, but that was also a gamble, as Argentina had much more space to threaten Marsch’s team. Things got worse for the Concacaf representatives when star player Davies was substituted in the 71st minute due to an injury. Canada had a few more chances late in the game, and one of them required a good save from Martínez. But as said, you have to take your chances against this opponent.

Ultimately, the game was decided after the first goal and Argentina reached the final of the Copa América again. Now they are scheduled to return to the Hard Rock Stadium and their home game in Miami. They are waiting for the winner of Wednesday’s tasty match between Colombia and Uruguay.


Lionel Scaloni, 8 — A smart tactical game from Scaloni, which will come as no surprise at this point. He wanted to make sure the game was won in midfield and made smart substitutions to keep his team fresh and stable against a frustrated Canada without bite.

PLAYER RATING (1-10; 10: best. Players brought on after 70 minutes will not be rated)

Goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, 7 — A very quiet first half with little to do other than protect his near post after a throw in. The second half was similar, apart from the 89th minute when he had to come into action. Another clean sheet earned with full authority.

DF Gonzalo Montiel, 7 — A shaky start as he couldn’t contain Shaffelburg, but when Argentina took control, he did. Montiel is the type of player who has to get used to the rhythm of the game more than other players. Was replaced by Nahuel Molina in the 70th minute.

DF Cristian Romero, 8 — Another strong performance from one of the best central defenders in the world. Romero started almost every series and together with Lisandro Martínez protected the Argentinean defensive line without too much trouble.

DF Lisandro Martinez, 7 — He may have been the smallest man on the pitch next to Messi, but his presence was immense. Next to Romero, it is almost impossible to create a breakthrough. Did a good job of keeping Jonathan David quiet. Made one mistake in giving away possession in the second half.

DF Nicolás Tagliafico, 7 — A solid first half, with Richie Laryea’s impact on his wing being limited. He also made some decent forward runs. Covered a huge amount of ground and even got involved in some central action. Came on for Nicolás Otamendi in the 64th minute.

MF Enzo Fernández, 8 — Played a much deeper role in the first half, helping the midfield when Alvarez dropped into the middle. His assist came at a good moment for Messi’s goal, which gave Argentina a 2-0 lead. Clever passing.

MF Alexis Mac Allister, 7 — Not much trouble from the Liverpool midfielder, who controlled the left side of the pitch relatively well. Was more involved in helping to cover ground when Messi couldn’t. Came on in the 78th minute to replace Exequiel Palacios.

MF Rodrigo De Paul, 9 — Very mobile in the first half, trying to support his centre-backs and bring balls forward. His great assist helped Alvarez score the opening goal. Apart from his usual dark-arts antics, De Paul played a fantastic game for his team and at the end of the day that is what really matters.

FW Angel Di Maria, 8 — Some smart runs down the left and gave Messi a great ball in the first half which presented a good chance. Also worked hard to protect his defensive side when Canada attacked. Came on for Nicolás González in the 78th minute.

Former Lionel Messi, 8 — A decent effort in the first 10 minutes of action and moved with much more freedom in contrast to the previous match against Ecuador. Played more simple balls and distributed the ball well to his teammates. Got his goal in the second half.

FW Julián Àlvarez, 8 — Scored the opener with a solid, well-timed run. Made some smart runs and worked tirelessly for his team. A great game from the 24-year-old striker. Came on for Lautaro Martínez in the 77th minute.


DF Nicolas Otamendi, 6 — Came on to replace Tagliafico and provided more stability when Argentina were 2-0 up.

DF Nahuel Molina N/A, — Came on in the 71st minute when Scaloni rotated his starting players off the field.

MF Exequiel Palacios, N/A — Was brought on in the 78th minute and performed his duties without much fuss.

FW Lautaro Martinez, N/A — It is a luxury that the Copa’s top scorer can be substituted in the 78th minute of the semi-final, with the match already decided.

FW Nicolás González, N/A — Another substitution was intended to turn back the clock and give the first team, this time Di Maria, some extra time to recover for Sunday’s final.

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