Argentina player ratings: 8/10 Messi shines in Copa América opener

Argentina triumphed 2-0 over Canada in the inaugural match of the 2024 Copa América at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia as goals from Lautaro Martínez and Julián Álvarez propelled the reigning champions to first on the Group A standings.

La Albiceleste kicked off strong, testing Canadian goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau early on to make the North Americans uncomfortable. Canada coach Jesse Marsch’s side didn’t back down, however, managing several shots to keep Argentina uncomfortable until the halftime whistle.

After the second whistle, Argentina found the energy that led them to the 2021 Copa América and 2022 World Cup title. A key pass by Lionel Messi to Alexis Mac Allister in the 49th minute inspired the build-up to the first goal, allowing the Liverpool figure to connect with Álvarez to gain the lead.

Canada attempted to bounce back, but substitute Martínez entered the game with the necessary vigor to find the back of the net first and double the score.

Lionel Scaloni’s Argentina will now prepare to face Chile on Tuesday night at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey for the second group stage match of the tournament.

Manager rating (scale of 1-10)

Lionel Scaloni, 8 — The manager put out a strong starting 11, but his intelligence showed when making much-needed substitutions in the second half. Though Álvarez could’ve stayed on the pitch, subbing in Martínez proved to be a key factor in the victory. A good coach not only knows his strongest players, but also pays attention to the assets on the bench.

Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best)

GK Emiliano Martínez, 7 — After a somewhat comfortable first half, the Aston Villa goalkeeper became crucial in the second 45 to maintain the clean sheet.

DF Nahuel Molina, 6 — Struggled on the right against Alphonso Davies, coming up short against the Bayern Munich player.

DF Cristian Romero, 7 — Paired well with Martinez to create, keeping the much-needed clean sheet.

DF Lisandro Martínez, 7 — Two clearances and provided the backline with the strength necessary against a tricky Canada.

DF Marcos Acuña, 6 — Defensively solid, but lacked strength when going forward on the attack.

MF Alexis Mac Allister 8 — Incredibly creative on the attack, consistently threatening Canadian players before finally breaking through on that first goal. Excellent connection with Messi to inspire the goal.

MF Leandro Paredes 7 — A sound defensive performance with two necessary interceptions and two blocked attempts. A necessary figure in the midfield.

MF Rodrigo De Paul 7 — Defensively and structurally sound, saw a couple of bright moments on the attack but his long passes need fine-tuning.

MF Ángel Di María 7 — Led a couple of key breakaways but lacked the precision on the front foot. On another night, he would’ve put away those opportunities in the first half.

FW Lionel Messi 8 — His unique vision of the game inspired the key pass to Mac Allister in the build-up of the first goal. Otherwise tested Crépeau, but unlucky not to find the back of the net on the 1v1. situations.

FW Julián Álvarez 8 — Despite a muted first half, he redeemed himself with the opening goal of the game.

Substitutes (players introduced after 80 minutes = no rating)

MF Giovani Lo Celso 7 (Di Maria, 68′) — A bit muted on the ball, difficult to judge his impact when Martínez outshined the substitutes.

FW Lautaro Martínez 9 (Álvarez, 76′) — It didn’t take the player long to come into the game, spice things up and score his goal.

MF Nicolás Otamendi 7 (Paredes, 77′) — A decent performance in a short period of time, but again outshined by Martinez.

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