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Improved Canada ready for Round 2 against Messi, Argentina at Copa America

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The Canadian men's national soccer team will have their second opportunity in the past 20 days to take on the No. 1 ranked team on the planet when they clash with Argentina in the first semifinal at the Copa America on Tuesday. 

Coverage from MetLife Stadium in New Jersey begins at 7pm ET/4pm PT on TSN 1/3/4 and streaming on TSN.ca or the TSN App.

Argentina, the defending Copa America and FIFA World Cup champions, blanked Canada 2-0 in the opening game of the tournament on June 20.

Since then, Canada has defeated Peru 1-0, battled to a scoreless draw against Chile and outlasted Venezuela on dramatic penalty kicks during Friday's quarterfinal, one of the greatest moments in the program's history. 

"They [Argentina] haven't seen our best yet," Canadian striker Cyle Larin told the media on Monday during availabilities.

"They know what we have. We have lots of speed and power, but I think over those days we've been together, we've been growing."

ContentId(1.2146102): 'They haven't seen our best yet': Canada more confident since first game vs. Argentina

Head coach Jesse Marsch, who has been with the program for less than two months, said seeing the Argentinians once already this tournament will help in their semifinal clash on Tuesday. 

"I think for us knowing the quality and level at which Argentina plays, it's more of an advantage that we were able to play against them, than it was for them to play against us," remarked the coach. 

Marsch, 50, added that he believes the time spent together over their three weeks at the Copa America has led to a greater tactical approach and a stronger sense of on-pitch relationships. 

 

Taking on Messi

ContentId(1.2146119): How should Canada handle Messi in their rematch against Argentina?

Ranked 48th in the world coming into the Copa America, Canada was not favoured to advance past the group stage let alone make an appearance in the semifinal, outlasting the likes of Mexico (No. 15), United States (No. 11) and Brazil (No. 4). 

The word "fearless" has been used to describe Canada's efforts so far in their first appearance at Copa America. 

"For me, fearlessness comes from the clarity of understanding roles and knowing that within the roles if you make mistakes that people are going to be able to help support you in those moments," explained Marsch.   

Even during their opening loss to Argentina, Canada had their chances, battling to a scoreless draw in the first half. Against Venezuela in the quarters, Canada didn't let up on their steady offensive pace throughout the full 90 minutes and could have had two or three goals if they finished on some prime opportunities. 

"We don't want to play just for penalties. We're going to go out and play the way we like to play. We are going to use it as an opportunity to be at our best and that at the end is really the focus. And what an incredible opportunity to do so," said Marsch. 

Canada knows that they will have to do a better job of containing Lionel Messi if they want to accomplish the massive upset on Tuesday. 

Messi picked up an assist and had a handful of great chances, including three shots on goal, during Argentina's win over Canada last month, something they will need to limit Tuesday, says the coach. 

"We know that limiting his space is the No. 1 thing. We don't want him free and running at our back line and running at our goalkeeper like last game. That was not good enough," Marsch explained. 

At the same time, Marsch knows it's a privilege to take on a player of Messi's calibre on this stage. 

"We all know he's the greatest player to ever play the game. The respect that we have for him, I think worldwide respect for who he is, and certainly the stadium will reflect that tomorrow," he said. "It's always a privilege to play against a player like him and our players will be up for it, they'll be excited and the challenge is big so we'll see if we can do a little bit better than we did in the first match."

Larin says the Canadians are up for the daunting challenge. 

"We are playing against the best team in the world, but I think you prepare as you always do for each game," said the 29-year-old, who plays his club football in La Liga. "I think you just have to be 100 per cent focused on each moment of the game because you're playing against the top players and they don't take a second off." 

As of Monday night, Argentina were -310 favourites to advance to Sunday's final.