Three years after winning the Copa America and two years after hoisting the World Cup, Argentina is just one match away from lifting another after a 2-0 win over Canada. When others have fallen, Argentina is building its empire brick-by-brick, frustrating its opponents with its signature brand of soccer.

This dynasty is led by youthful, yet experienced players. Enzo Fernandez assisted Argentina’s winning goal and was vital in possession, but is only 23. Julian Alvarez is just 24, but with the maturity and calmness in his play, he could have played decades’ worth of soccer.

For the group’s leaders — veterans rapidly reaching the formidable 40-year-old mark — they played like they were 20. 37-year-old Lionel Messi reminded the world of his legendary status, scoring his first goal of the tournament after running a clinic on destroying Canadian defenses.

Angel Di Maria was the team’s creative outlet — the 36-year-old ran rampant down the right flank. Argentina looked the most complete and dominant it has in a while, and that’s saying a lot considering their recent performances.

Alvarez puts Argentina up over Canada

When the match started, it looked like Argentina would be the next world empire to crumble. For a minute, left winger Jacob Shaffelburg seemed unstoppable as Canada broke loose in transition several times. Shaffelburg, Alphonso Davies, and a speedy Canada team often proved too much for the physical Canadian sides to handle.

We saw how fast and frustrating Canada could be at times. Jonathan David’s counter-attacking strike against Peru and Shaffelburg’s goal over Venezuela both come from Canada surging quickly through fast-break goals on the wings. The Jesse Marsch-led Canadians are difficult to deal with, as the Argentine defense discovered first-hand.

Although Shaffelburg flirted with the net a few times in the opening minutes, sending two shots off target, Rodrigo de Paul drew first blood in the 22nd minute. De Paul dropped deep between Canada’s midfield lines, turned, and launched a 40-yard ball right into the path of Julian Alvarez. The City attacker deftly controlled the ball, withstood a sliding Moise Bombito tackle, and converted the one-on-one to put Argentina ahead.

Towards the end of the half, frustration boiled over for the red-and-white. After Derek Cornelius flicked on an Alistair Johnson long throw, Jonathan David’s flicked-on effort was met with an amazing Emiliano Martinez stop at the near post. You could see fatigue scrawled on the players’ faces, along with visible annoyance from Marsch towards the end of halftime after some questionable calls.

Messi doubles Argentina’s lead

The game slowed down after Argentina got a hold of the game. Argentina patiently and slowly cut open the Canadian defense, often passing it around the backline and sniffing out opportunities. Argentina preferred to slowly draw Canada out with their slow build-up, and then attack. It helped them draw time off the clock.

Argentina’s second strike came through Messi himself. After halftime, Messi took the ball on the right wing before playing it to De Paul. De Paul reached the byline and cut the ball back to Messi, but Ismael Kone made a smart interception. But, Kone’s clearance landed right at Enzo Fernandez’s feet. Fernandez fired a shot on goal, but Messi’s flick helped thoroughly beat Canada keeper Maxime Crepeau.

The game looked all but finished as Emiliano Martinez came up with another save after his penalty heroics against Ecuador. After a clumsy giveaway, the ball worked its way to Tani Oluwaseyi. Oluwaseyi launched his shot on goal, but Martinez deflected the ball with his feet before collecting the ball. Only minutes later, Oluwaseyi connected with a Jonathan Osorio cross, but he steered his header narrowly wide of the post.

An emotional Martinez, with the Argentine flag dyed into his hair, lifted his hands to the sky and collapsed. Relief and fatigue washed over the Argentine squad, who will earn five days of rest until the final.

They’ll learn about their opponents in the finals on Wednesday. Argentina will either face Colombia, who hasn’t lost since March 2022, or Uruguay, their fierce derby rivals. Either way, it promises to be thrilling, intense, and vital for the Argentine core’s legacy.

Yes, I am aware that these are the last battles… I am enjoying them to the fullest,” a grinning Messi admitted. “It’s not easy to be in a final again. We need to enjoy, enjoy every moment.”