Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi to play for Argentina in Copa América semifinal despite leg injury
Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi to play for Argentina in Copa América semifinal despite leg injury

Updated Jul. 8, 2024 7:56 p.m. ET

NEW YORK – Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni said that captain Lionel Messi, who has been dealing with a leg injury, will play against Canada in Tuesday's Copa América semifinal (8 p.m. ET on FS1 and the FOX Sports App)

Messi, 37, played the full 90 minutes of the quarterfinal match against Ecuador, which La Albiceleste won following a penalty shootout. Messi, who stepped up to take the first PK, missed from the spot after trying a Panenka that hit the crossbar.

"Leo is doing OK and tomorrow he's going to be playing, he's going to be on the field," Scaloni said during a press conference on Monday via interpreter.

The Inter Miami superstar missed Argentina's final group stage match – a 2-0 win over Peru – causing some concern about his fitness for the rest of the tournament. He valiantly returned for the quarterfinal, however, and did not appear to be limited — especially in the 34th minute when his corner kick ended in a goal by Lisandro Martinez at the far post to give Argentina a 1-0 lead before halftime. 


Ecuador miraculously equalized in stoppage time to force penalty kicks – and even though Messi missed the first one, Argentina came out on top thanks to goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez's heroics.

Argentina topped Canada 2-0 in the tournament's opening match two-and-a-half weeks ago. Since then, Messi has dealt with an injury and has yet to score a goal for his squad at this Copa América.

Scaloni was adamant about Messi's status on Monday, though, and said that it is his decision whether he plays.

"It's a very easy call for me because it's a very honest discussion," Scaloni said. "I sit with him [and say], ‘How are you doing?' [If he says] ‘I'm OK,' then you play. I made it clear from Day 1 that when he's up for the match, he will always play, there's no question about that. Who could ever hesitate? Not me, at least.

Argentina vs. Ecuador Reaction: Lionel Messi, Argentina ADVANCE to semifinals after PK shootout

"It's up to me to decide and when I see that he's in good condition – even if he's not 100% – he will still play and I take full responsibility for that. I mean, there's no doubt in my mind. That's never been a difficult decision for me because I know everything he can give. Even when he's not at his best, he still has a lot to give. So I would never make the serious mistake of not making him a starter when I know that he has a lot to give. 

"So that's not up for discussion."

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Canada, meanwhile, hopes to play spoiler to the tournament favorites in this semifinal rematch. Coach Jesse Marsch, who has only been on the job since May, and his squad have surpassed expectations and now find themselves with a massive opportunity to make an even bolder statement by beating La Albiceleste to clinch a spot in the Copa America final.

Argentina understands Canada is motivated, and is determined to defend their title.

"They know us, we know them, and we're going to try to find the best possible way to hurt them," Scaloni said. "We want to be the ones to set the strategy. We will use every possible weapon."

Laken Litman covers college football, college basketball and soccer for FOX Sports. She previously wrote for Sports Illustrated, USA Today and The Indianapolis Star. She is the author of "Strong Like a Woman," published in spring 2022 to mark the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Follow her on Twitter @LakenLitman.

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