Canada undone by Álvarez, Messi in hard-fought Copa América semifinal vs. Argentina

Final Score: Argentina 2-0 Canada
Goalscorers: Álvarez 23′, Messi 51′
Copa América — Semifinal

Canada’s dream run at the Copa América finally sputtered on Tuesday, as the men’s national team fell in admirable battle to Argentina in Tuesday’s semifinal. Despite a spirited first half, Canada were undone by the reigning World Cup champions, as Lionel Messi and co. eventually found their way through to put themselves into the final for a chance to defend their own title from 2021.

To begin the game, Jesse Marsch went with a similar lineup for his Canada squad as in prior matches, but he chose to put Ismaël Koné back into midfield after the youngster redeemed himself with some strong play and scored the winning penalty in the quarter-final against Venezuela. Meanwhile, Argentina boss Lionel Scaloni made a few changes to the team that beat Ecuador, with Gonzalo Montiel coming in at right-back, Ángel Di María returning to the side on the wing, and Julian Álvarez getting the start up top ahead of Lautaro Martínez.

The match started in classic semifinal fashion, as the two sides — familiar from a meeting earlier in the tournament — spent the first 20 minutes lobbing soft attacks at one another in an attempt to feel the other out. Canada had the better of the early opportunities, with a couple of chances where the key pass just missed an outstretched foot by a few inches, or the run was a beat off the rhythm.

Argentina, though, were Argentina. In the 23rd minute, they found their way through the Canadian backline as the ball came to Álvarez near the top of the box. He brought down Rodrigo de Paul’s long pass forward with a deft touch and knocked it around Moïse Bombito, getting into an individual battle with Maxime Crépeau and finishing through the Canadian keeper’s legs to make it 1-0.

The first half was far from exceptional from either outfit, which is a description that largely would’ve suited Canada had they not conceded. They knew Argentina would have more of the ball — which they did, at 60 per cent, but they turned it into just one shot on target. Canada had their own chances in transition, and even created a big chance, but this was not a game where the chances would flow and they could afford to miss.

Nonetheless, Canada went into halftime down just one goal and feeling like they had a chance in a genuinely competitive semifinal, which few neutral spectators might have predicted heading into the game.

Coming out of the break, Argentina were once again aggressive. Just over five minutes after halftime they found their way toward the Canadian box, as a ball into the box was cleared but only as far as the top of the area, where Enzo Fernández was on hand to feather it toward goal. Lionel Messi — kept onside by a trailing Derek Cornelius — got a quick touch on the attempted shot to fool Crépeau and make it 2-0 for Argentina. Such is the risk of the greatest player of all time being left unmarked in the middle of the six-yard box.

In the end, it wasn’t the outrageous storybook ending that Canada might have harboured in their wildest dreams, but there’s no better way to describe Tuesday’s match than as a competitive semifinal. Of course, Argentina were the better team — they were always expected to be. But at no point did Canada look uncannily out of place; their cohesion and mutual understanding of a defensive game plan forced the world’s top international side to take their opponents very seriously. Even the fact that Argentina’s goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez — famous worldwide for his embrace of the dark arts — resorted late in the match to his trademark time-wasting antics was a testament to the challenge Canada posed.

The Canadians did not surrender at any point of course, desperate even to find one goal against the Argentines. Tani Oluwaseyi came the closest, twice; he had a point-blank shot that Emi Martínez was more than able to kick away with his left leg, before another chance with a header that didn’t have enough power to make things difficult for the Argentine keeper.

Try as they might, Canada could not, in the end, make a dent in Argentina’s defence. The Albiceleste, who have conceded just once all tournament — and that one to Ecuador in the quarter-final — held firm once again for another clean sheet en route to the final.

Thus comes to an end (kind of) an incredible run at this Copa América for the Canadian men’s national team. In their first ever appearance in the tournament, they went farther than any other Concacaf side, earning incredible experience in the process by playing world-class opposition — all of which will help as they prepare to host a World Cup in 2026.

Canada will get one more night at this party, in the third place game against either Colombia or Uruguay on Saturday. That’ll be a profoundly valuable test once again, considering how rare those are in the lead-up to 2026.

Either way though, Les Rouges have nothing to be ashamed of. They went toe-to-toe with the best side in international football. Canada were in the semifinal of a Copa América, and they belonged there.

(Photo courtesy of Concacaf)

Box Score


Argentina: E. Martínez; Montiel (Molina 70′), Romero, Li. Martínez, Tagliafico (Otamendi 64′); Di María (González 78′), De Paul, Fernández, Mac Allister (Palacios 78′); Messi, Álvarez (La. Martínez 78′)

Canada: Crépeau; Johnston, Bombito, Cornelius, Davies (Osorio 71′); Shaffelburg (Millar 55′), Koné, Eustáquio (Choinière 72′), Laryea (Ahmed 55′); David (Oluwaseyi 64′), Larin


23′ — Julian Álvarez (Argentina)
51′ — Lionel Messi (Argentina)


32′ — Yellow: Jonathan David (Canada)
63′ — Yellow: Stephen Eustáquio (Canada)
79′ — Yellow: Ismaël Koné (Canada) Player of the Match

Rodrigo De Paul, Argentina

Aside from assisting the first goal, De Paul was instrumental to Argentina shutting down the Canadian possession game. He won nine out of 14 duels and made two key passes, making four tackles and five total defensive actions in a well-rounded performance from the Atlético Madrid midfielder.

What’s Next?

As Argentina move on to the final, Canada’s Copa América journey has not technically ended. They’ll take on the loser of the other semifinal, either Colombia or Uruguay, in Saturday’s third place match, at Charlotte, North Carolina’s Bank of America Stadium (8 p.m. ET).