Argentina v Canada: Marsch says Copa underdogs need greatest performance yet

By Sports Desk July 08, 2024

Canada must produce the performance of their lives to have any chance of upsetting holders Argentina to reach the Copa America final, acknowledges Jesse Marsch.

Marsch's team will face the World Cup winners for a final berth at the MetLife Stadium on Tuesday, having overcome Venezuela in a penalty shoot-out in the last eight.

They are just the fourth CONCACAF team to reach the Copa semi-finals and the third to do so on their debut, after Mexico (1993 runners-up), Honduras (third in 2001) and the United States (third in 1995).

They face the sternest of tests next up, however, having already lost to Lionel Messi and the rest of Argentina's stars in their opening group-stage game.

Julian Alvarez and Lautaro Martinez were on target in that match as Lionel Scaloni's team triumphed 2-0 in Atlanta, rifling off 19 shots worth 3.02 expected goals (xG) to Canada's 10 (1.16 xG).

While Canada have won plenty of admirers on their run to the last four, Marsch knows they need to step up further on Tuesday.

"Argentina will have to be the best match we've ever played and it still might not be enough," he said. "But whatever. We're going to go for it."

Captain Alphonso Davies echoed those sentiments but pointed out Canada had given Argentina a scare in their earlier game, saying: "It's going to take everything. We played them in the group stage and we played well but didn't get the win we wanted."

 

Argentina boss Scaloni hit out at the quality of the pitch after that earlier meeting at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and Messi says the surfaces have had an impact throughout the tournament.

"The pitch always has an influence. It's a reality that the pitches aren't good," he told reporters, as quoted by The Athletic.

"I think the best one was the one in Miami, which was good from what you saw from the outside at least. It's natural and that's already different. Of course, it has an influence."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Argentina – Alexis Mac Allister 

Mac Allister assisted Lisandro Martinez's opener versus Ecuador in the last eight, then held his nerve from the spot as the world champions triumphed in a shoot-out after a 1-1 draw.

The Liverpool midfielder has two assists at this year's tournament. Since such data began in 2011, only Lionel Messi (in 2011, 2015, 2016 and 2021) has ever provided three or more assists for Argentina at a single edition of the Copa America. 

Mac Allister has completed 122 of his 135 passes at this tournament, with 70 of those being played in the opposition half. With Canada likely to sit deep, it could fall on him to keep things ticking over and provide service for Messi and his fellow attackers.

 

Canada – Maxime Crepeau

Crepeau was forced into six saves in Canada's Copa America opener versus Argentina, and he could be busy again here.

However, he has been in excellent form throughout this tournament, conceding three goals from 4.95 expected goals on target (xGoT) faced, with only Claudio Bravo (3.66 goals prevented) and Rafael Romo (2.36) overperforming their underlying goalkeeping statistics by a greater margin.

Only Sergio Rochet and Emiliano Martinez (three each) have bettered his two clean sheets at this tournament. He will have his work cut out to keep another, though.

MATCH PREDICTION: ARGENTINA WIN

Argentina have now reached the semi-finals at seven of their last eight major tournaments, with the 2018 World Cup being the only exception.

They have won their last 10 matches against CONCACAF opponents in official competitions, not conceding a goal in any of their last six such games.

Additionally, the defending champions have reached the last four at five of the last seven editions of the Copa America, and only two of them – Colombia in 2004 and Chile in 2019 – failed to make the final. The omens, then, are not good for Canada.

It will be the fifth time Argentina have faced the same opponents twice at a single edition of the Copa America since the current format was introduced in 1993. Two of the previous four instances included a semi-final meeting (Colombia in 1993 and Paraguay in 2015), with the other two including the final (Mexico in 1993 and Chile in 2016).

La Albiceleste did, however, only win one of those four editions, lifting the trophy in 1993, then waiting 28 years to reclaim their place as South America's finest in 2021.

They are assigned an 84% chance of reaching the final by the Opta supercomputer, with Canada out to cause one of the greatest upsets in the history of the competition.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Argentina – 76.7%

Canada – 9.8%

Draw – 13.6%

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