19.06.2024 19:43 h

Canada's Marsch demands 'fearless' football

Canada head coach Jesse Marsch says he wants his team to be "fearless" when they face Lionel Messi and Argentina in the opening game of Copa America on Thursday.

Marsch, the American former RB Leipzig and Leeds United manager, only took over the Canadian team last month and had two friendly matches in Europe to prepare for the tournament.

His debut game in charge ended in a 4-0 loss to the Netherlands but there was an improved display in a 0-0 draw with France.

Marsch is looking to build on the progress made by his predecessor John Herdman, who took Canada back to the World Cup after a 36-year absence, but knows that facing the world champions and 15-times Copa America winners will be the ultimate test.

Asked what the team's fans can expect from his team in this tournament, Marsch said: "I think an organized and disciplined team will be important. We've talked a lot about that. And then an aggressive team, you know, a team that plays fearless, a team that goes after the game.

"Even at moments when we know that Argentina will possess the ball and they'll bring the crowd into the match, (a team) that will still be really organized, that will stay strong, that will still be aggressive at the right moments," he added.

Marsch said that with Argentina's impressive midfield and the ever-present threat from Messi, his team will need to be disciplined off the ball.

"We won't give Argentina a ton of space, we'll try to be compact and then, you know, in our moments we'll show our quality on the ball and we'll certainly try to be dynamic in transition moments. We think that that can play to our strengths," he said.

"So, it's a big challenge, but again, we're excited," Marsch said. "We don't look at this as how good Argentina is, we look at it as an opportunity for us to grow, for us to be better and for us to prove to ourselves how good we can be."

Messi is expected to start for Argentina, who are looking for a third straight major tournament title after their World Cup triumph and their win in the 2021 Copa America.

Marsch said he has no illusions about how difficult it will be for his team to limit the impact of the eight-times Ballon d'Or winner.

"I think the challenge with Messi is not just his quality, but his ability to kind of move around in the game. He doesn't just show up in the same places all the time," he said.

"He's very clever about coming underneath at times, about how he moves off the back line. Obviously, anytime he gets on the ball, the way that he can start to create combinations and really provide confidence and poise and quality for the team is very unique, right? This is what makes him the best player to ever play the game," added Marsch.

"The key I think is to really be always aware of where he is and make sure that he's not in open space and that we're able to close space and try to make it difficult for him.

"I've played against him, coached against him a few times and had some successes, but he always finds ways to make a difference because his quality is so amazing. So, that'll be the challenge for us.

"I think the guys are prepared and excited for it, but we know that it will be very difficult," he said.

While the challenge is tough, Marsch says he has been impressed by the foundations laid down by Herdman and by the way his team, in two difficult games in Europe, adapted to his new demands.

"It was much much better than I could have hoped going into that process," he said. "I think we're stronger for that I think there's a high level of belief and now it is a big test once more to see how we hold up and can we execute.

"I believe that we'll have a good match tomorrow and I believe that we'll have a good start and that the team will show confidence in an incredibly difficult situation," he added.