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Canada falls to Argentina in 2024 Copa America semifinals

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Canada’s remarkable run at the 2024 Copa America ended in the semifinals after a 2-0 defeat against defending Copa America and World Cup champions Argentina in New Jersey Tuesday.

The result is identical to the tournament opener between the two sides in Atlanta nearly three weeks ago.

Argentina too impressive and clinical

Argentina scored on two of their three shots on target. Canada’s two shots on target hardly tested Argentina keeper Emi Martinez.

Canada did create several half chances from runs down the flank, accurate passes into the final third, and over-lapping play. But these opportunities often didn’t result in an attempt on goal, whether due to a heavy touch, an extra pass or touch in the box, or just excellent defending from Argentina.

“We had our chances in the beginning of the game,” Canadian midfielder Stephen Eustaquio said in a post-match interview with TSN’s Matthew Scianetti. “If we scored one of our chances, the start of the game would’ve been different.”

“They had one chance, they scored it and after everything else opened up.”

Argentina’s midfield controlled the game from kickoff to the final whistle. They had 65 percent possession after 20 minutes and 60 percent of the ball at halftime. Once they took a 2-0 lead, they sat back and allowed Canada to have more of the ball, which made the final possession stat closer.

Argentina edged the possession battle 51-49 percent and outshot Canada 11-9 (3-2 on target).

At the end of the day, being ruthless and clinical in the final third was the difference.

Despite being heavily out-possessed in the first 20 minutes, Canada was sharp defensively, pressing high up the field and using their physicality to win duels and create a handful of turnovers in the midfield, which they took the other way in transition thanks to Alphonso Davies and Jacob Shaffelburg’s speed.

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Offensively, they moved the ball well down the flanks and created a handful of quality chances, mainly in transition, but Shaffelburg and Jonathan David couldn’t hit the target with their shot attempts from dangerous areas.

Meanwhile, Argentina’s midfield was happy to control the possession, move the ball around, and wait for a hole in Canada’s backline before sending a long through-ball over top of Canada’s defense to one of their prolific attackers like Lionel Messi, Angel Di Maria, and Julian Alvarez.

Canadian defense breached

Argentina did just that in the 22nd minute when Rodrigo De Paul’s long pass split two Canadian defenders: Alistair Johnston and Derek Cornelius and landed at the feet of Julian Alvarez who controlled the pass and muscled past Moise Bombito before striking the ball between Maxime Crépeau’s legs into the back of the net. Argentina scored on its only shot on target in the first half.

Less than 30 seconds before Argentina went up 1-0, Argentina defender Nicolas Tagliafico blatantly went through Richie Laryea’s back to win the ball. It appeared to be an obvious foul and a yellow card to Argentina, that should’ve resulted in a Canada free kick, but the ref didn’t call it, much to the disappointment of Canada head coach Jesse Marsch.

At halftime, the possession was 60-40 percent in Argentina’s favour and Argentina outshot Canada 8-4, each team had one shot on goal. Argentina was in complete control and their midfield bossed the game, but Canada had done well to keep it close.

Messi’s goal kills the game early in second half

However, early into the second half, Messi’s first goal of the 2024 Copa America and 109th career international goal –second most all-time, only behind Cristiano Ronaldo (130), passing Iran’s Ali Daei’s 108– put the game out of reach for Canada.

Another defensive switch-off resulted in a De Paul shot, which was cleared away by a diving Ismael Koné. The clearance only made it to the edge of the box where Enzo Fernandez had a ton of time and space to line up a shot. Messi, standing a yard in front of Crépeau, got a foot on it and deflected it under Crépeau’s hands. Messi looked to be offside, but Cornelius was out of position, too close to the byline, and played Messi onside.

Canada’s defense had too many lapses of focus and concentration that gave Argentina extra time and space to create a dangerous scoring chance. Against a world-class team like Argentina that can and will punish you for your mistakes, Canada could not afford to switch off defensively even for a second because their opponent could and did capitalize on it.

Canada, Copa America, Argentina

Argentina beats Canada 2-0 in the 2024 Copa America semifinals in New Jersey Tuesday. Photo: Canada Soccer

Johnston and Cornelius have to be closer together on the first goal to prevent Alvarez from running in between them, Bombito should’ve defended better to try to prevent the Alvarez shot and in the build-up to the second goal, both De Paul and Fernandez shouldn’t have been left so wide open and have so much time to shoot. But, these mistakes will become learning experiences for Canada to build on in the future.

The refereeing was once again, a main topic. Not calling Argentina’s foul on Laryea before the first goal, Stephen Eustaquio getting a yellow card for hardly touching De Paul, and a nasty tackle against Davies in the 69th minute –definitely deserving of at least a yellow– going uncalled are three of the many questionable refereeing decisions that made headlines.

Jonathan David has an off day

A handful of players had great games for Canada, including Koné, Davies, Shaffelburg, and Eustaquio.

However, Jonathan David struggled and never really found his footing. He misplaced passes, missed a few chances and his touch looked heavy. Ultimately, he dropped down deeper and spent much of the match in a lower position supporting the midfield and was therefore not able to make an impact up top. He was subbed out in the 64th minute for Tani Oluwaseyi, who once again made an instant impact off the bench, creating many chances.

In the end, the better team won and Argentina deservedly advanced to the final. They await their opponent, the winner of the other semifinal matchup between Colombia and Uruguay.

Despite the loss, Canada – who can be thrilled about their historic achievement this summer (first win at Copa America, first goal at Copa America, advancing from the group stage and winning a knockout game) – still has a point to prove and will look to end the tournament on a positive note, against the loser of the Colombia and Uruguay matchup in the third-place game taking place on July 13 at 8:00 p.m. EST, 24 hours before the final kicks off.

“I’m proud of the boys… to get here (and be) a top four team at Copa America is a very good achievement. We still have one game to go and we’re gonna push hard for third place,” Eustaquio continued.

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About Author

Adamo Marinelli is a multimedia freelance journalist who specializes in sports reporting. His writing, editing, and multimedia work has appeared in Total Soccer News, The Ottawa Citizen, Ottawa Sun, The Hockey News, The Canadian Baseball Network, 49 Sports, Ottawa Sports Pages, Capital Current, 613 Sports, and The Charlatan.

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