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Lionel Messi, Argentina shut out Canada to reach Copa America finale

Striker Lionel Messi (C) of Argentina scores a goal against Canada goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau in a 2-0 win in a Copa America semifinal Tuesday in East Rutherford, N.J. Photo by C.J. Gunther/EPA-EFE
Striker Lionel Messi (C) of Argentina scores a goal against Canada goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau in a 2-0 win in a Copa America semifinal Tuesday in East Rutherford, N.J. Photo by C.J. Gunther/EPA-EFE

July 10 (UPI) -- Lionel Messi and Julian Alvarez each scored to lead top-ranked Argentina to a 2-0 shutout of No. 48 Canada, clinching a spot in the Copa America finale for the defending tournament champions.

Alvarez found the net in the 22nd minute Tuesday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. Messi added insurance with another score in the 51st minute. Midfielders Enzo Fernandez and Rodrigo De Paul assisted the forwards.

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Argentina will face No. 14 Uruguay or No. 12 Colombia in the Copa America finale at 8 p.m. EDT Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla.

"It's madness what this team has done, what the Argentinian national team has been doing," Messi said in his on-field interview. "I think that each time we make a final, there's more importance to the finals I have left to play."

Canada failed to capitalize on several early chances. Messi nearly scored the opening goal in the 12th minute, but that shot sailed just wide of the right post.

The Argentines finally broke through midway through the first half. De Paul started the sequence, receiving a pass at midfield. He dribbled into Canada territory and sent a long ball toward the box. Alvarez knocked the pass down with a velvety-soft touch, outpaced the Canada defense and finished the play with a right-footed shot between the legs of goalie Maxime Crepeau for a 1-0 lead.

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Veteran winger Angel Di Maria nearly doubled the Argentine lead in the 34th minute, but that attempt flew over the crossbar. Canada's defense also held up, denying more chances in the first half, including several from Messi.

Messi then doubled the lead about five minutes into the second act.

The star striker dribbled deep in the right corner before passing off to De Paul inside the box. Messi then ran toward the goal, but De Paul's pass back was intercepted by Ismael Kone. The Canada midfielder attempted to clear the ball, but instead sent it directly to Fernandez. Fernandez sent the ball back toward the goal, where Messi redirected a shot off Crepeau and into the net.

Crepeau and Argentine keeper Emiliano Martinez continued to deny attempts down the stretch, helping the result stand. Canada also lost star defender Alphonso Davies to an ankle injury. He left the game in the 71st minute.

Uruguay will take on Colombia in the other Copa America semifinal at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. The matchup will air on FS1. Sunday's final will air on Fox.

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