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Messi is enjoying his 'last battles' with Argentina

Updated: 2024-07-11 09:15
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From left: Argentina's Angel Di Maria, Enzo Fernandez, Lionel Messi and Nicolas Otamendi celebrate after defeating Canada in their Copa America semifinal in East Rutherford, New Jersey, on Tuesday. AP

EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey — Lionel Messi said he was enjoying his "last battles" with Argentina after the 37-year-old found the net in a 2-0 win over Canada on Tuesday to book a place in the Copa America final.

After a lackluster display against Ecuador in the quarterfinals, Messi looked to be back to his usual self again, connecting with Angel Di Maria and strike partner Julian Alvarez, who also scored.

"I'm living it like I lived it in the last Copa America, in the last World Cup. These are the last battles and I'm enjoying them to the maximum," he told TyC Sports after the win set up a meeting with Uruguay or Colombia in the final.

Messi, now playing with Inter Miami in Major League Soccer, has yet to indicate whether he will continue to play with Argentina at the 2026 World Cup, which will feature a final at the New Jersey venue.

But asked about Messi's "last battles" comment, Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni asked for calm.

"We have to leave him alone, he knows that we will not be the ones to close the door on him. He can stay with us as long as he wants, even when he retires. Let him decide what he wants," he said.

Messi has chance to win a third straight major title with his national side following its 2022 World Cup triumph and its 2021 Copa America win.

The eight-time Ballon d'Or winner referenced veteran teammates Di Maria and Nicolas Otamendi, and said that the success was validation for the difficult barren years the team had suffered.

"The truth is, it's crazy what this group has done, what the Argentina national team has been doing, because after all this, it gives value to all (the tournaments) myself and the old generation have played in," Messi said on TyC Sports.

"It's not easy for us to be in a final again, for us to compete again to be champions," he added after the victory at MetLife Stadium.

Despite Argentina reaching the final with some comfort against Canada, the former Barcelona forward said it had been a tough test so far.

"It's a difficult Copa, evenly matched, with very bad pitches, with high temperatures, very tough teams, and for us to be in a final again is something to enjoy," he said.

Goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez said that, despite being world champions, the joy of reaching a final was just as intense as ever.

"It's a source of pride as an Argentine, as a representative of this national team, to be able to play in another final. It feels as if it was the first time," he said.

Proud run

Canada coach Jesse Marsch said he was proud of what his squad had achieved at the Copa America, despite Tuesday's semifinal defeat.

Former Leeds United manager Marsch took over just five weeks before the tournament kicked off, but Canada adapted quickly to his methods and outperformed fellow CONCACAF sides Mexico and the United States, which failed to make it out of the group stage.

Argentina had defeated the Canadians by the same score in the tournament opener.

"What I said to the team afterwards is that I know that they're very disappointed, but I'm very proud of them," Marsch said. "We've put together some incredible performances, just starting our process.

"We need to find a way to expand our player pool. We need to continue to challenge our group to come together and be able to perform in moments like this.

"But in general, we've had a wonderful five to six weeks together, and it's gone way better than any of us could have scripted. There's still a lot of work to do, but we've built a really good foundation."

Canada's semifinal appearance marks its deepest run at a major tournament outside the Gold Cup, and it has a third-place playoff to come on Saturday.


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