Canada gears up to face Argentina at Copa America Tuesday

By Sonia Aslam

All eyes will be on the pitch Tuesday as Team Canada faces the defending World Cup Champions at Copa America.

On Monday, Albiceleste coach Lionel Scaloni confirmed star Lionel Messi will start for Argentina, despite dealing with a nagging leg injury.

Sportsnet 650 Host Brendan Batchelor says Team Canada is the underdog going into the match.

“But that being said, the way the Canadians have played in this tournament, some of the skills they have on their roster, they are capable of causing the upset. Would I say, I would predict that to happen, no, but they’ve got a chance, and anytime you’re in one of these big matches … anything can happen.”

He expects a game with stakes as high as this, will be very entertaining.

“I think you have to look at it from the perspective that all the pressure is on Argentina. Canada has already overachieved by reaching this point in the tournament, being in the semi-final, whereas Argentina is expected to win this tournament based on the quality of team they have. Anything less than a win over Canada would be a massive disappointment for Argentina. For the Canadians, they’re playing with house money.”

Outside of appearing at the World Cup in Qatar in 2022, Canada’s men’s soccer team has exceeded expectations.

“They don’t get a lot of respect in the soccer world, in my mind,” explained Batchelor. “To come into this tournament with a brand-new head coach and to advance further than any other CONCACAF nation in the same tournament where the Americans hosted it and didn’t even get out of the group stage, shows that this is a team that deserves more respect around the world than it gets.”

“When you look at some of the strong footballing nations in this tournament, Uruguay and Argentina are still alive. Brazil is one of the world powers of soccer, who’ve already been eliminated and for Canada to be in the conversation is absolutely a situation where they’ve exceeded expectations,” he added.

Even if they lose, Batchelor says the country has a lot to be proud of.

“To be in the final four of a major tournament. To be in a semi-final. To be on a stage like this is an achievement that we haven’t really seen from Canada Soccer ever, you could argue. You could argue it’s the biggest match in Canadian soccer history.”

Canada and Argentina have faced each other twice before Tuesday’s game — Argentina having won both times.

Batchelor says this game has the chance of being a turning point for men’s soccer in Canada.

“I think oftentimes, games like this you don’t really appreciate the impact that they have for a decade or two. So, in 10 years from now, if there is an increase in the level of development of soccer players that we have in Canada or we’re seeing more players come through the pipeline, then you can look at a team like this, reaching a game like this and say, ‘That had an impact.'”

Batchelor says the run the team has been on has really been embraced by Canadians from coast to coast.

“It’s exciting too because of the fact the World Cup is coming up in just a couple of years here, so it will ramp up excitement leading towards that event about what Canada might be able to do on an even bigger stage than the Copa America.”

The loser of Tuesday’s game plays for third place on July 13 with the final taking place on July 14.

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