Argentina open Copa America defence with 2-0 win over Canada

Julian Alvarez and Lautaro Martinez scored second-half goals as champions made to work for victory.

Julian Alvarez was on target for Argentina (Mike Stewart/AP)
Julian Alvarez was on target for Argentina (Mike Stewart/AP) (Mike Stewart/AP)

Argentina opened their defence of the Copa America with a 2-0 win over a battling Canada in Atlanta.

The World Cup champions dominated possession but were frustrated for much of the evening as they spurned several opportunities with 18 shots on target while surviving the occasional scare at the other end.

Julian Alvarez put them ahead early in the second half, Lautaro Martinez wrapping up the win in the closing minutes as he latched on to Lionel Messi’s through ball.

Angel Di Maria was the first Argentine player who failed to take advantage of a one-on-one after springing the offside trap, losing control and allowing goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau to make the first of several blocks.

Lionel Messi, left, set up a goal for Argentina (Jason Allen/AP)
Lionel Messi, left, set up a goal for Argentina (Jason Allen/AP) (Jason Allen/AP)

Rodrigo De Paul’s ball across an empty goal found nobody on hand to tap in, while Alexis Mac Allister headed at Crepeau with the best chance of the half.

Canada carried their own threat despite being well beaten in possession stats; Alphonso Davies was the main danger as he created a chance for Tajon Buchanan to put wide.

Emiliano Martinez saved from Stephen Eustaquio before Lionel Messi – making a record 35th appearance in the tournament – put his first real sight of goal over the bar just before the break.

Alvarez finally found the net four minutes after the restart, firing home after being found by Mac Allister.

Canada had chances to equalise, a VAR check ending claims for a penalty, while Argentina continued to be wasteful, Messi firing wide after being clean through and substitute Nicolas Otamendi spurning two chances in quick succession.

Lautaro Martinez finally made things safe, latching on to Messi’s through ball to slide it under Crepeau.