The title holders and world champions weren’t exactly clinical, but they came away with three points in the first match of Copa America 2024. Read on, then do your own analysis of the Opta data from this Group A game with our Argentina vs Canada stats page and post-match facts.

Copa America holders Argentina made a winning start at the 2024 tournament as Julián Álvarez and Lautaro Martínez scored in a 2-0 win over Canada.

The 2022 World Cup winners did not have things all their own way against Jesse Marsch’s competition debutants, who missed a couple of glaring chances through Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David.

But on the day he became the Copa’s outright leading appearance-maker, Lionel Messi was the catalyst for both goals, splitting the Canada defence in the build-up to Alvarez’s opener then assisting Martinez’s late clincher.

The Inter Miami star missed two great chances to get on the scoresheet himself, but it was of no consequence as Lionel Scaloni’s men started with three points.

Argentina 2-0 Canada xG map

They take on Chile, who beat them in the 2015 and 2016 finals, in their second match on Tuesday, while Canada will look to bounce back versus Peru.

Canada refused to sit in and their approach left them open at the back early on. Leandro Paredes curled a 25-yard effort narrowly over the top, then Álvarez saw his shot smothered by Maxime Crépeau after a lightning break took him clean through on goal.

Despite Argentina dominating possession, Canada should have gone ahead on the stroke of half-time, Emiliano Martínez making a reflex save to deny Stephen Eustaquio before Davies miscued on the follow-up. 

They were made to regret that miss four minutes into the second half. Messi’s pinpoint throughball found Alexis Mac Allister, and though the midfielder was wiped out by Crépeau, Álvarez was on hand to convert into an empty net.

Messi should have made it 2-0 after 65 minutes, but he saw an angled drive parried by Crépeau before Derek Cornelius made a fine block to deny him on the rebound. 

Canada continued to offer a threat at the other end, though, with David heading over after being found totally unmarked on Jacob Shaffelburg’s cross.

Messi missed another chance when his dinked attempt rolled agonisingly wide, but he did manage an assist as Argentina made the result safe two minutes from time.

His delicate pass sent Martínez clear, and the substitute slotted a composed finish between the legs of Crépeau as things opened up considerably for Argentina in the closing 15 minutes.

Argentina 2-0 Canada xG race

Assist for Messi on Landmark Appearance

Messi made a piece of Copa America history on Thursday, his 35th appearance in CONMEBOL’s flagship tournament pulling him clear of Chile great Sergio Livingstone for the most games played at the competition outright.

The eight-time Ballon d’Or winner failed to mark the occasion with a goal, misfiring from a game-high six shots worth 0.69 expected goals (xG).

However, he did cap his outing with an assist for Martínez’s late second, taking him to 30 goal involvements at the tournament overall (13 goals, 17 assists).

Messi still has plenty of gears to go through, and that should strike fear into Argentina’s upcoming opponents.

Encouragement for Canada, but No Points

Canada became the 20th different nation to participate in the Copa America, and the eighth different CONCACAF team after Costa Rica, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama and the United States.

As was the case at the 2022 World Cup, they played some high-octane football but were not rewarded with a positive result.

At half-time, Marsch’s team had matched Argentina’s tally of seven shots, the most any team have attempted in a first half against the Albiceleste since Uruguay managed eight in November 2021. Their 0.73 xG, meanwhile, topped the world champions’ 0.56 at that stage. 

Álvarez’s opener came as a dagger blow and they were unable to sustain their high-intensity approach for the full 90 minutes, but there were positives to take.

Ahead of Thursday’s opener, the Opta supercomputer gave Canada just a 27% chance of escaping Group A. While the result will have done nothing to boost those hopes, their display should offer encouragement ahead of meetings with Peru and Chile.

Copa America Group A Predictions

Our Opta match centre delivers you all the Argentina vs Canada stats from their Copa America Group A clash at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

The match centre below includes team and player stats, expected goals data, passing networks, an Opta chalkboard and more. It gives you everything you need to do your own post-match analysis.

Underneath the match centre you can find the official Opta facts on the game as well. 

Argentina vs Canada: Post-Match Facts

  • Lionel Messi has reached 17 assists in the CONMEBOL Copa America, with the first one in the 2011 edition. Since then, he has more than three times as many assists as any other player in the competition (Ángel Di María and Alexis Sánchez, with five).
  • Lionel Messi became the first footballer to play in 35 CONMEBOL Copa America matches, surpassing the record of 34 matches set by Sergio Roberto Livingstone with Chile in 1953. The Argentine’s record stands at 22 wins, 10 draws, and three losses.
  • With today’s assist against Canada, Lionel Messi reached 50 direct goal involvements in official competitions for club and country on U.S. soil (30 goals + 20 assists).
  • Lionel Messi made seven passes that broke through the final defensive line against Canada, more than twice as many as any other player in the opening match of the CONMEBOL Copa America.
  • Argentina won their first opening match in an official tournament under Lionel Scaloni as coach, after failing to do so in the 2019 CONMEBOL Copa America (0-2 vs. Colombia), the 2021 CONMEBOL Copa America (1-1 vs. Chile), and the 2022 FIFA World Cup (1-2 vs. Saudi Arabia).
  • Argentina had nine big scoring chances (according to Opta’s definition) against Canada, the most for the Albiceleste since at least 2013, alongside two friendly matches against Guatemala (3-0 in 2018) and Curaçao (7-0 in 2023).
  • Canada took seven shots in the first half, the most by a team against Argentina before halftime since November 2021, when Uruguay took eight shots in the first half against La Albiceleste in South American World Cup Qualifying.
  • Lautaro Martínez has scored in four of the last five matches he’s played in the CONMEBOL Copa America (against Canada today; against Bolivia, Ecuador, and Colombia in 2021). The only exception was the final in 2021 against Brazil.
  • At 24 years and 142 days old, Julián Álvarez is the youngest player to score in both the FIFA World Cup and the CONMEBOL Copa America since José María Giménez did so for Uruguay in the 2018 World Cup in Russia at 23 years and 146 days old.

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