Lionel Messi makes history at Copa America as Argentina begins title defense with 2-0 win over Canada

Lionel Messi makes history at Copa America as Argentina begins title defense with 2-0 win over Canada

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World champions Argentina began their bid for a second successive Copa America title by beating Canada 2-0 in front of 70,564 spectators at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Thursday. Julian Alvarez gave Argentina the lead in the 49th minute but a combination of superb goalkeeping from Canada's Max Crepeau and Lionel Messi's lack of accuracy in front of goal ensured the underdogs stayed in the game, but Lautaro Martinez won the tie in the 88th minute.

Argentina, backed by a huge fan base wearing light blue and white striped shirts, fully deserved their win but Canada, ranked 48th in the world, deserved full credit for the way they coped with the 15-time Copa America winners.

Alvarez, preferred over Lautaro as Messi's strike partner in attack, had the first opportunity when he fended off Ishmael Kone's attempted clearance and escaped.

But the Manchester City striker hit hard at Canadian goalkeeper Max Crepeau, who was able to stop the ball.

Messi, who has become the most capped player in Copa America history, participated in his seventh tournament for the 35th time. He then came close to scoring himself, but his angled shot from the left went just wide of the post.

While the Argentines were exploiting gaps in the Canadian defence, Jesse Marsch's side were still contesting in midfield and creating some chances of their own.

Alphonso Davies and Liam Miller both had shots blocked inside the box and Tajon Buchanan missed an effort from a tight angle in the 30th minute.

The first true save of the game came in the 40th minute though, when Alexis Mac Allister's deflected header from Angel Di Maria's cross was well saved by Crepeau.

But Argentina needed the best from their goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez to keep them in contention till half-time.

Ciel Larin's cross from the right wing was saved by Stefano Eustaquio with a powerful header from close range, but Martinez's quick reaction kept the game goalless.

Break the deadlock

But Argentina broke the deadlock less than four minutes into the second half – Messi passed to Mac Allister who was dropped by Crepeau, but Álvarez headed the loose ball into the net before the referee had blown his whistle.

Moments later, Alvarez had another chance, but this time Crepeau dived to deny it and the Canadian could fight on.

They did so with more urgency and a bit more risk after coach Jesse Marsch added winger Jakob Schaffelberg and adopted a 4-3-3 attacking formation.

Suddenly, Argentina's defence came under pressure and did not look comfortable at all, as Canada pushed its players forward and exploited the wide areas.

But Martinez almost caught him out when he delivered a long ball to Messi in a classic counter-attack who charged towards goal and, with the fans expecting the eight-time Ballon d'Or winner to shoot, he missed the chance.

His initial effort was saved by Crépeau and although Messi latched on to the loose ball and attempted to slot around the goalkeeper, his shot was easily blocked by cover Derek Cornelius.

Incredibly, the former Barcelona star had another great scoring opportunity, but again he was unable to capitalise on it – coming in from the right, only to be beaten by Crepeau, Messi opened his body, but his shot went wide of the post.

Crepeau was at his best once again, keeping out substitute Lautaro as Argentina struggled to kill the game off, but they did so with two minutes of normal time remaining.

Messi delivered another superb pass and this time Lautaro made no mistake, beating the advancing Crepeau to put the ball into the goal, making it 2-0.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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