Player ratings: Messi guides Argentina to another Copa final

Moreno: Messi looked healthier in Argentina's win vs. Canada (2:07)

Alejandro Moreno breaks down what he liked from Lionel Messi in Argentina's win over Canada. (2:07)

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Under a hot, sticky sky, Argentina and Lionel Messi sealed their second consecutive Copa América final -- and fourth in past five tournaments -- with a 2-0 win over Canada on Tuesday. Thanks to goals from Manchester City's Julián Àlvarez and Messi, Argentina secured a strong and somewhat painless victory over the Copa's last remaining Concacaf nation. It was also Messi's 109th international goal, passing Ali Daei for second-most men's international goals of all time.

Canada, in quintessential Jesse Marsch fashion, started with a lot of energy as their high press aimed to make Argentina just as uncomfortable as the weather at MetLife stadium. Nashville SC's Jacob Shaffelburg tested Gonzalo Montiel's right side early in the game, but in the end, it came to nothing. As the first half developed, that Canadian press and aggression deflated, and Argentina started to take more control as Messi attempted a low, left-footed shot in the 12th minute. Canada was not bowing down, and it looked to capitalize on loose possession, but it still couldn't find the right pass to fully threaten Argentina keeper Emiliano Martínez.

And when you play Argentina, you have to take any chance you get, because if you don't, Lionel Scaloni's side will eventually make you pay. They are, after all, FIFA's best-ranked team and World Cup and Copa América defending champions for a reason. And in the 22nd minute, La Albiceleste took the lead following a great through ball from Rodrigo De Paul that found Àlvarez. It was Àlvarez's second goal in the tournament and again, just like in the opening game during the group stages, he initiated the scoring against Canada.

The evaporation of Canada's in-your-face approach allowed Argentina to become the complete protagonists. As for Messi's first half? He was relatively quiet in terms of threat, but his movement in the midfield and ability to spread the ball around was present. In the 44th minute, a beautiful play between Ángel Dí María, Àlvarez and Messi nearly ended with the Inter Miami CF star scoring a goal, but Messi placed it just wide of Maxime Crépeau's net. By the end of the first half, Argentina had more than 60% possession and eight attempts. Aside from an effort after a throw-in, which needed Martínez to deny Alphonso Davies, the defending Copa América champions were in full control.

The second half started in the same vein, and in the 51st minute, Messi found his first goal of the competition thanks to an assist by Enzo Fernández. At first, it seemed that Messi was offside and in the eyesight of Crépeau, but after a second look, it was clear Messi was kept onside by one of Canada's lagging defenders. His flick counted, and Argentina led 2-0 before the hour mark. It was Messi's 28th goal in the past 25 matches for the national team.

Canada did push after conceding the second goal, but that was also a gamble, as Argentina had much more room to threaten Marsch's side. Things worsened for the Concacaf representatives as star man Davies had to be subbed in the 71st minute due an injury. Canada did have some chances late in the game, and one of them needed a good stop from Martínez. But like it's been said, you have to take your chances against this opponent.

In the end, the game was done and dusted after the first goal, and Argentina made it to yet another Copa América final. Next up for them is a return to Hard Rock Stadium and their home away from home of Miami. They await the winner of Wednesday's tasty fixture between Colombia and Uruguay.


Lionel Scaloni, 8 -- A smart, tactical game from Scaloni, which should not come to anyone's surprise at this point. He aimed to make sure the game was won in midfield and made smart substitutions to allow his team to stay fresh and stable against a frustrated Canada with no bite.

PLAYER RATING (1-10; 10: best. Players introduced after 70 minutes receive no rating)

GK Emiliano Martínez, 7 -- A very quiet first half where he didn't have much to do aside from protecting his near post after a throw-in. The second half was similar, aside from the 89th minute, when he was called into action. Another clean sheet that was earned with complete authority.

DF Gonzalo Montiel, 7 -- A shaky start as he failed to contain Shaffelburg, but once Argentina took control, so did Montiel. Montiel is the kind of player who needs to get accustomed to the rhythm of the game more so than other players. Came off in the 70th minute for Nahuel Molina.

DF Cristian Romero, 8 -- Another strong performance from one of the best center backs in the world. Romero started almost every sequence and, alongside Lisandro Martínez, protected Argentina's backline without much trouble.

DF Lisandro Martínez, 7 -- He might have been the smallest man on the pitch alongside Messi, but his presence was immense. Next to Romero, it's almost impossible to create any breakthroughs against Martínez. Did a good job at keeping Jonathan David quiet. Made one mistake with the possession given away in the second half.

DF Nicolás Tagliafico, 7 -- A solid first half, limiting Richie Laryea's impact on his flank. Tagliafico also made some decent forward runs. Covered a tremendous amount of ground and even got involved in some central sequences of action. Came off in the 64th minute for Nicolás Otamendi.

MF Enzo Fernández, 8 -- Played a much deeper role in the first half, aiding the midfield whenever Àlvarez dropped to the center. Fernández's assist came at a good time for Messi's goal, which gave Argentina a 2-0 lead. Smart passing.

MF Alexis Mac Allister, 7 -- Not many issues from the Liverpool midfielder, who handled the left-handed side of the park relatively well. Was more involved in helping cover ground when Messi couldn't. Came off in the 78th minute for Exequiel Palacios.

MF Rodrigo De Paul, 9 -- Very mobile in the first half, looked to support his center backs and provide balls going forward. His great assist helped Àlvarez score the opener. Aside from his regular dark arts antics, De Paul had a fantastic game for his team, and at the end of the day, that's what truly matters.

FW Ángel Di María, 8 -- Some savvy runs on the left-hand side and delivered a great ball to Messi in the first half that allowed for a good opportunity. Also worked hard to protect his defensive side when Canada attacked. Came off in the 78th minute for Nicolás González.

FW Lionel Messi, 8 -- A decent attempt in the first 10 minutes of action and moved with much more freedom as opposed to the previous game against Ecuador. Played more simple balls and spread the ball well for his teammates. Got his goal in the second half.

FW Julián Àlvarez, 8 -- Scored the opener with a solid, well-timed run. Made some smart runs and worked tirelessly for his team. A great game from the 24-year-old forward. Came off in the 77th minute for Lautaro Martínez.


DF Nicolás Otamendi, 6 -- Came on to replace Tagliafico to provide some more stability with Argentina 2-0 up.

DF Nahuel Molina, N/A -- Came on in the 71st minute as Scaloni began to rotate his starters off the pitch.

MF Exequiel Palacios, N/A -- Brought on in the 78th minute and performed his duties without much fuss.

FW Lautaro Martínez, N/A -- It's a luxury when the Copa's top scorer can be subbed on in the 78th minute of the semifinal with the game already iced.

FW Nicolás González, N/A -- Another sub aimed at winding down the clock and giving the first XI, this time Di Maria, a modicum of extra time to recover before Sunday's final.