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Caldwell explains how ‘long shot’ Canada can shock Messi, Argentina


Canada is set to take the field at Copa America for the first time ever on Thursday with a daunting challenge in front of them: Lionel Messi and the defending World Cup champions, Argentina.

Watch Argentina vs. Canada LIVE on Thursday night with coverage getting underway at 7 p.m. ET/4pm PT on TSN1/4, and the TSN App.

Canada is coming off a pair of June friendlies against high-calibre opponents in the Netherlands and France as they prepared to open the tournament against FIFA’s No. 1 ranked team.

TSN soccer analyst Steven Caldwell says the challenge will be difficult for Canada, but not an impossible one.

“It’s a football match. Anyone can win any football match. Don’t rule it out. Of course, it’s a long shot. Argentina are an excellent side. They've been in great form since Qatar and they're the favourites for Copa America. It's going to be incredibly tough,” Caldwell said on TSN Radio Thursday morning. 

"I think for Canada, they've got to just play the best game possible for their 11. I think the start of the match is going to be very fast with lots of emotion and energy inside the stadium. Canada will have to manage that and just break this game up into little blocks. Get through the first 15 minutes and start to feel comfortable.”

Thursday’s match in Atlanta will be the first in a competitive fixture for Canada’s new manager, Jesse Marsch. His side has been tasked with stopping an Argentina squad that has not lost since dropping their opening match of the World Cup to Saudi Arabia nearly two years ago.

Caldwell believes Canada, who moved up one spot in FIFA’s ranking to No. 48 ahead of Copa America, has a path to upsetting their heavily favoured opponents.

“I think Canada can score, I really do. In terms of attack, Canada can hurt Argentina. They're a little vulnerable down the sides. Just getting the chances in the right areas and actually being able to counter on them. I think Canada can score,” Caldwell said. “The best result for me is probably a 1-1 draw, but you never know. If Canada gets that goal with a little bit of luck and the goalkeeper plays great, you can come away with a victory.”

Fans from around the world have descended on Atlanta to watch Argentina and their globally renowned superstar. Messi, who will be playing his seventh Copa, will be the focus for Canada as they attempt to pull off the monumental upset.

“To stop him takes a lot of plans. It's not one person's responsibility. It's the whole team being aware and concentrating on his possession the entire game,” said Caldwell. “He relies on his intelligence and game knowledge to inject energy and pace. That is the task ahead for Canada. To prevent him from getting to areas where he's unstoppable, to hone in on where he wants to be effective and do your absolute best to stop him.

“He'll still go to other positions and he can still be very effective with his playmaking but I think that's the lesser of two evils when it comes to Messi hurting you as an opposition team.”

Despite being heavy favourites to win the match, Argentina manager Lionel Scaloni says his team needs to be prepared for a motivated Canadian side. 

"Canada is a very good team, they have important players and a new coach who has brought in new ideas," Scaloni said. "They are a complicated opponent, but we are prepared to play our game."

With the world’s eyes set on Mercedes Benz Stadium, Caldwell says much of the pressure will be on Argentina to set the tone in the opening match of the 48th Copa America.

"[Argentina] is a brilliant team. They're tough but they're also very skilled and talented. They don't expect anything. They fight for everything, they have a great spirit and determination under Lionel Scaloni,” he said. “It's going to be fascinating because the pressure is on them to go out and entertain these fans and give them a resounding victory.”