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Messi on target as Argentina beat Canada to reach Copa America final

Defending champions Argentina reached the Copa America final after goals from Julian Alvarez and Lionel Messi gave them a 2-0 win over Canada in Tuesday’s…

Defending champions Argentina reached the Copa America final after goals from Julian Alvarez and Lionel Messi gave them a 2-0 win over Canada in Tuesday’s semi-final in New Jersey.

Argentina will face either Uruguay or Colombia in Sunday’s final in Florida, a match that could represent the last shot at silverware for several senior squad members, including Messi, Angel Di Maria and Nicolas Otamendi.

“Let’s enjoy what we are experiencing as a national team, as a group. It is not easy to be in a final again, to compete again to be champions,” Messi told reporters.

“I’m living it as I have been living everything lately: enjoying it very much and being aware, as it happens to Fideo (Di Maria) and Ota (Otamendi), that these are the last battles.”

Argentina have won a joint-record 15 Copa titles and reached the final six times in the past eight editions.

But Canada caused them real problems in the opening 20 minutes, with Jacob Shaffelburg twice shooting wide from promising positions.

After soaking up the early pressure, though, Argentina went ahead when Rodrigo De Paul played through Alvarez.

He ghosted in between two defenders to score with a tidy finish in the 22nd minute.

Argentina, 2022 World Cup winners and number one in FIFA’s rankings, gradually took control and Messi had a chance to double their lead in the 44th minute.

This was when he created space in the penalty box with some silky footwork before lashing his effort wide.

Canada nearly snatched an equaliser against the run of play in first-half stoppage time as Jonathan David sneaked in ahead of his marker to get on the end of a long throw-in.

But his close-range shot was hit straight at goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez.

Messi had struggled with a muscle injury earlier in the tournament but appeared revitalised on a hot and humid evening at the MetLife Stadium.

He scored Argentina’s second in the 51st minute, sticking out a boot to divert Enzo Fernandez’s shot from the edge of the area past Canada goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau.

The goal moved Messi to joint fifth in the all-time Copa America scoring charts, level with Peru’s Paolo Guerrero and Chile’s Eduardo Vargas on 14.

His 109th goal for Argentina also saw him surpass Iran’s Ali Daei to take sole possession of second place on the all-time international scoring charts.

Messi trails only Cristiano Ronaldo, who has scored 130 goals for Portugal.

In spite of their two-goal cushion, Argentina had a nervy finish to the match.

Canada substitute Tani Oluwaseyi tested Martinez with a crisp shot in the 89th minute, before directing a glancing header wide a minute later.

For Canada, the defeat ends a remarkable run in which they defied expectations.

They also performed better than their higher-ranked CONCACAF rivals Mexico and the U.S, their fellow co-hosts of the 2026 World Cup. (Reuters/NAN)

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