Copa America kicks off in Atlanta with Messi-mania driving Argentina past Canada

June 21 – The chants of ‘Mes-si! Mes-si! Mes-si!’ started more than an hour before kickoff and kept up throughout Argentina’s 2-0 win over Canada  in the Copa America opening game in Atlanta.

Messi, who now plies his trade in the MLS, set up the two second-half goals which put paid to a brave Canadian performance.

Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium was transformed into a sea of blue and white as if it was an Argentina home game. Messi, who turns 37 on Monday, didn’t add to his 108 international goals but proved his value nevertheless.

“I feel like we’ve had a good match plan and we’ve executed a lot of good things but he’s so good,” Canada coach Jesse Marsch bemoaned.

Victory in Group A stretches Argentina’s unbeaten record at the Copa America to nine matches, having won the 2021 edition in Brazil and a third-place play-off two years previously.

The pitch at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which is the regular home of MLS side Atlanta United and NFL franchise Atlanta Falcons, came in for criticism, however, from Argentina manager Lionel Scaloni.

It usually has an artificial pitch but a temporary grass surface was installed for the tournament.

“With all due respect, thank goodness we won,” Scaloni said. “Otherwise, it would have been a cheap excuse. We have known for seven months that we are going to play here and they changed the turf two days ago.

“It is not good for the show. It is not an excuse. The stadium is beautiful and with synthetic turf it must be spectacular, but with today’s turf it is not suitable for this kind of players.”

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