Copa América
Can Canada upset Lionel Messi, Argentina in Copa América rematch?
Copa América

Can Canada upset Lionel Messi, Argentina in Copa América rematch?

Published Jul. 6, 2024 12:56 a.m. ET

The first Copa América semifinal is set, and it will be a rematch of the tournament's opening game as heavy favorite Argentina takes on an upstart Canada squad.

It's no surprise seeing the Lionel Messi-led Argentina team back on this stage as the defending Copa América and World Cup champion aims for its third straight major international trophy. But Canada has become the Cinderella team of the its first-ever Copa América tournament, especially after taking down Group B winner Venezuela on penalties after a 1-1 draw in Friday's quarterfinal. 

It's taken Canada head coach Jesse Marsch, who was hired in May, just six matches to have his squad playing the sort of high-flying, aggressive style the American became known for as a club coach in Europe. 

Still, Tuesday's semifinal will mark just 19 days since these two teams faced off in the 2024 Copa América opener, which Argentina won 2-0 behind a second-half goal each from star strikers Lautaro Martinez and Julian Álvarez — both on chances created by the superstar Messi.


Can Canada use the familiarity to its advantage as Marsch & co. look to pull another stunning upset? The "FOX Soccer NOW" crew of Jimmy Conrad, Melissa Ortiz and Wes Morgan weighed in.

"Your first game in a Copa América is against the best team in the world — that's hard," Ortiz said. "And [Canada] didn't get their butts kicked, they held on. Yes, they lost, but they clearly grew from that game. And once they were able to perform and gain confidence and grow more into the tournament, you just see them really being able to get this win [vs. Venezuela] and deserve this win, too."

Venezuela vs. Canada Highlights | 2024 Copa América | Quarterfinals

Conrad said the action-packed, free-flowing style of Canada's match against Venezuela on Friday reminded him of that opener against Argentina, where the teams combined for 28 total shots, 11 of which were on goal. But he wondered whether Argentina would also be more prepared for that style of game than it was the first time around, when Messi's squad did not pull away until the second half. 

"When I think about Jesse Marsch, his methodology … It's all gas, no brakes," Conrad said. "If you play a team a second time so quickly, especially a team as high caliber as Argentina, you have to make some adjustments. You can't just be like, ‘Let's go 100 miles an hour again, guys, and see what happens.' That just feels foolish and naive that you wouldn't take some learnings from game one and apply them to game two." 

Still, Ortiz believes that Canada gains a key advantage as a team with nothing to lose and having already faced the intimidation of going against a team of Argentina's stature on the pitch.

"I think now that Canada has faced Argentina in a Copa América match, now those nerves are set aside," Ortiz said. "They're finding their identity more, game by game. Now they know what they've experienced in these last matches, especially against Venezuela, where they can press and push up high — but they can't get caught too high. And that's especially [true] against Argentina. So there's gonna be a lot of tactical work in these next few days leading to the [semifinal]."

Morgan agreed with his co-hosts, saying he believes Marsch is too intelligent to not try the same strategy against Argentina on Tuesday and expect a different result.

"I can't see Jesse doing that," Morgan said. "I think he understands the caliber of the opponent. The approach he went for in the Venezuela game, surely he won't go for the same approach with Argentina. You have to respect Argentina's best players. He won't take them for granted. But at the same time, I'm sure he wants to impose himself on the game, not sit back and absorb pressure and hope to nick something. Today was a good example of what they're capable of going forward, the first half in particular.

"You've got to [favor] Argentina to edge that one out, but this is football. Anything can happen."

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