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Lionel Messi to Start Against Canada in Copa America Semifinal, Argentina Coach Lionel Scaloni Confirms

Lionel Messi to Start Against Canada in Copa America Semifinal, Argentina Coach Lionel Scaloni Confirmsillustration

Lionel Messi will play in Argentina's Copa America semifinal against Canada on Tuesday night, despite dealing with a leg injury, according to coach Lionel Scaloni.

Messi has been managing a right leg issue since Argentina's group stage win over Chile on June 25. He missed the first-round finale four days later but played the entire quarterfinal match against Ecuador last Thursday.

“Leo is good. He will be playing tomorrow,” Scaloni stated on Monday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

At 37, Messi has scored 13 Copa America goals, four shy of the record held by Argentina's Norberto Méndez and Brazil's Zizinho. However, Messi has yet to score in this year's tournament.

“It's an easy decision for me,” Scaloni explained. “It's a fairly honest decision: I ask him how he feels. If he says ‘I'm not good,' then he will play the last 30 minutes. When he's available, he will play.”

Argentina, aiming for a record 16th Copa America title, defeated Canada 2-0 in their June 20 tournament opener, with Messi assisting on goals by Julián Álvarez and in the second half.

“We didn't do well enough with Messi last match. He was able to run free at our goalkeeper too much,” said Jesse Marsch, appointed as Canada's coach in May. “We all know he's the greatest player to ever play the game.”

In their previous encounter, Argentina outshot Canada 19-10, including 9-2 on target, and maintained 64% possession.

“It's more of an advantage that we were able to play against them than it was for them to play against us,” Marsch commented.

Both teams advanced to the semifinals with quarterfinal wins on penalty kicks. Canada, participating as an invited guest from North America, defeated Venezuela.

In the other semifinal, Uruguay faces Colombia on Wednesday night in Charlotte, North Carolina. The match is scheduled for Sunday in Miami Gardens, Florida.

Argentina will have four days of rest, one more than Canada, but both teams played 90-minute matches in the quarterfinals. Tournament rules stipulate that extra time will only be used if necessary in the final.

Argentina is seeking to secure its third major title following victories in the 2021 Copa America and the 2022 . Achieving this would match Spain's feat of winning the European Championship in 2008 and 2012, along with the 2010 World Cup. The Albiceleste currently share the record for most Copa America titles (15) with Uruguay.

Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez has won four consecutive shootouts, against Colombia in the 2021 Copa semifinals, the Netherlands in the 2022 World Cup quarterfinals, France in the World Cup final, and Ecuador last week.

Martinez, known for his constant movement and attempts to distract opponents, saved eight of 18 shots, stopping Colombia's Davinson Sánchez, Yerry Mina, and Edwin Cardona; the Netherlands' Virgil van Dijk and Steven Berghuis; France's Kingsley Coman; and Ecuador's Ángel Mena and Alan Minda.

Canada, eliminated in the group stage of its only World Cup appearances in 1986 and 2022, won the 2000 CONCACAF Gold Cup and the 1985 CONCACAF Championship.

“We're playing against the best team in the world,” said Cyle Larin, Canada's career leader with 29 goals. “We have a lot of speed and power, but I think over those days we've been together we've been growing.”

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