The 'Mes-si!' chants started more than an hour before Copa America opener, and he sets up both goals

ATLANTA (AP) — The chants of “Mes-si! Mes-si! Mes-si!" started more than an hour before kickoff and kept up throughout Argentina’s 2-0 victory over Canada on Thursday night in the Copa America opener.

Lionel Messi set up both goals on a night he played in his record 35th Copa America match. His pass led to Julián Álvarez's goal in the 49th minute and he extended his tournament assists record to 18 when he fed Lautaro Martínez in the 89th.

“You need someone like Leo to make that pass," Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni said.

Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium was transformed into a sea of blue and white jerseys as if it was an Argentina home game. Messi remained at 108 international goals, despite several good scoring opportunities. His 13 career Copa America goals are four shy of the record.

“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 said.

The match was Messi's last as a 36 year old. He turns 37 on Monday, and Argentina plays Chile the following day at East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Albiceleste finish the first round against Peru on June 29 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, not far from Messi's club home in Fort Lauderdale with Major League Soccer's Inter Miami. The July 14 final also is at Hard Rock.

Messi failed to convert on a pair of excellent chances. Goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau made a diving stop in the 65th minute and Messi’s attempt off the rebound was blocked by the head of defender Derek Cornelius. Messi put a chip wide after he came in alone on Crépeau in the 79th.

“On the field everything goes so fast. Obviously you know Messi is there," Crépeau said.


AP soccer:

Tori Newman, The Associated Press