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Lionel Messi inspires Argentina to second consecutive Copa América final

By Ben Church, CNN

(CNN) — Lionel Messi helped guide Argentina to this year’s Copa América final after scoring in his nation’s 2-0 win against Canada in the semifinals on Tuesday.

The 37-year-old scored early in the second half to double Argentina’s lead after Julián Álvarez had given La Albiceleste a first-half lead.

It means Argentina has now reached the Copa América final in six of the previous eight tournaments, with this being its second in row – the South American side won the 2021 title.

“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 TyC Sports after the match, per Reuters.

“I’m living it as I have been living everything lately: enjoying it very much and being aware.”

Argentina will face either Uruguay or Colombia in Sunday’s final which will be held at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.

Canada head coach Jesse Marsch told reporters before the semifinal that he was aware just how difficult it would be to play Argentina, but his side started well against the reigning world champion.

Canada winger Jacob Shaffelburg, though, was made to rue two missed opportunities in the early stages as Argentina striker Álvarez opened the scoring with a composed touch and finish in the 22nd minute.

The goal was a sign of the quality that Canada, the world No. 48, was up against.

Messi, possibly playing at his final Copa América for Argentina, then started finding his stride and went close twice before the end of the first half.

The eight-time Ballon d’Or winner eventually got his goal shortly into the second half as Enzo Fernández’s shot deflected off the Inter Miami forward, catching Canada goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau off guard.

Canada is now the 38th team that Lionel Messi has scored against while playing for his country, per Opta.

Despite not reaching the final, Canada impressed at this year’s tournament and showed promising signs for the upcoming World Cup in 2026, which it’s co-hosting alongside Mexico and the US.

“[The tournament] has gone way better than any of us could have scripted,” Marsch told reporters after the game.

“There is still a lot of work to do, but we’ve built a really good foundation and I’m really optimistic about what the future can look like.”

Canada will now play the loser of the other semifinal in the third-place playoff on Saturday.

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