A valiant defensive effort was not enough to keep the defending World Cup and Copa America champions from winning as Canada fell to Argentina 2-0 in the tournament’s opening match.

It was new head coach Jesse Marsch’s third game in charge, and he has had a measure of success in getting players to adapt to his defensive structure. However, attacking proficiency is still lacking.

After seeing Canada play against France in their last friendly warmup leading to Copa America, the lineup for this match was an afterthought.

Marsch made no changes to the starting XI in his selection against Argentina, opting for the 4-2-2-2, which did so well to nullify the dangerous French attack.

However, this was no longer a friendly; Canada would need to find an offensive spark, something that was lacking in the two warmup matches against the Netherlands and France. Both Cyle Larin and Jonathan David would need to break individual goalless streaks for the national side.

Canada’s strength is evident. The midfield has been talked about and discussed ever since the beginning of the month. For anyone in Canada who did not know Ismaël Koné, they did after watching his ability in those two matches.

Pairing with him was Canada’s ever-stalwart Stephen Eustáquio. The engine in the middle of the park, not much happens for Canada without going through him.

Canada’s first real chance came at the half-hour mark. Davies carried the ball with pace down the left and cut inside along the byline. The ball was played into the middle of the 18-yard box and hit off a couple of players before getting to Tajon Buchanan. The winger turned from close range, but the contact was poor and well off the mark.

Maxime Crepeau had to be alert on several occasions. His ability to read the play and come out of his box to play a ball out of danger saved Canada from blushes in being caught out by Argentina beating the high defensive line.

The best chance in the first half was just before it ended. Larin opened up space on the right and crossed a dangerous ball into the box, finding Eustaquio. The Porto midfielder’s header forced Emiliano Martinez to rely on his reflexes more than anything. 

Unable to hold onto it, Davies got onto the rebound, but the ball was hit wide and over.

Whatever was said in the Argentinian locker room at the half worked. Argentina came out with something to prove and started to do it right away.

Four minutes was all it took. Lionel Messi played and passed up to Alexis Mac Allister in the 18-yard box. With a little side-footed pass, he got it away from Crepeau, who had come off his line to challenge.

The pass found Julian Alvarez who still had work to do to get around the Canadian defence. The shot had Argentia up by one in the 49th minute.

Argentina added another in the 89th minute. Messi threaded a beautiful pass into Lautaro Martinez, a second-half substitute, and the Serie A Golden Boot winner doubled the lead.

Crepeau stands tall

Those who only look at scorelines will not get the full story of this match. While Canada let in two goals, the best player on the pitch by a country mile was Crepeau.

Argentina had nine shots on target and registered nine big chances. On several occasions, the Canadian goalkeeper denied the defending champions, particularly Messi.

Argentina led the xG comparison by a significant margin, 3.05 to 1.21. For Crepeau to hold them to only two goals emphasizes just how damning the scoreline could have been.

No goals under Marsch so far

Perhaps the most glaring stat is that Canada, in three matches so far, has not scored under Marsch.

To be fair, those three matches have all come against FIFA-ranked nations in the top 7 in the world.

Up next

Canada’s next match is on Tuesday, June 25 when they will play Peru. Kickoff is at 3 p.m. PST.