Lionel Messi scores his first goal of the tournament as Argentina cruise to final with win vs. Canada

EAST RUTHERFORD — Defending champions Argentina booked their place in the Copa America final after goals from Julian Alvarez and Lionel Messi gave them a 2-0 win over Canada in Tuesday's semi-final in New Jersey.

Argentina have won a joint-record 15 Copa titles and reached the final six times in the past eight editions but Canada caused them problems in the opening 20 minutes, Jacob Shaffelburg twice shooting wide from promising positions.

After soaking up the early pressure Argentina went ahead when Rodrigo De Paul played through Alvarez, who ghosted in between two defenders to score with a tidy finish in the 22nd minute.

2022 World Cup winners Argentina gradually took control of the match and Messi had a chance to double their lead in the 44th minute as he created space in the box with silky footwork before lashing his effort wide.

Canada nearly snatched an equalizer against the run of play in first-half stoppage time as Jonathan David snuck in ahead of his marker to get on the end of a long throw, but his close-range shot was hit straight at goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez.

Messi then scored Argentina's second in the 51st minute when he stuck out a boot to divert Enzo Fernandez's shot from the edge of the area past Canada goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau.

Messi goal vs Canada

The goal moved Messi to joint fifth in the all-time Copa America scoring charts, level with Peru's Paolo Guerrero and Chile's Eduardo Vargas on 14.

The 37-year-old's 109th goal for Argentina also saw him surpass Iran's Ali Daei on the all-time international scoring charts. Messi is second behind Cristiano Ronaldo, who has scored 130 goals for Portugal.

Despite their two-goal cushion, Argentina had a nervy finish to the match as Canada substitute Tani Oluwaseyi tested Martinez with a crisp shot in the 89th minute before directing a glancing header wide a minute later.

Argentina will take on either Uruguay or Colombia, who meet on Wednesday, in the final in Florida on Sunday.

(Reporting by Aadi Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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