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Canada advances to Copa America after winning playoff

Omar Vega / Getty Images Sport / Getty

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Canada's men's national team will open the 2024 Copa America against Lionel Messi and Argentina after beating Trinidad & Tobago on Saturday for a berth in the summer tournament.

Cyle Larin's all-time leading 29th goal for Canada preceded substitute Jacob Shaffelburg's emphatic stoppage-time insurance marker in the 2-0 win at Toyota Stadium in Dallas.

Canada's second victory in four matches since John Herdman resigned as head coach ensured top billing in the Copa America's opening match against the reigning World Cup champion on June 20.

Canada will also face Peru and Chile in Group A. The top two teams will advance to the quarterfinals.

CONCACAF, which covers North and Central America and the Caribbean, is sending six guest teams to the Copa America. The United States is hosting the tournament and will be joined by Mexico, Jamaica, Panama, Canada, and Costa Rica, who beat Honduras 3-1 in Saturday's other playoff qualifier.

CONMEBOL, which covers all of South America, will have 10 entries in the tournament, led by Argentina and five-time World Cup champion Brazil.

Canada blew its first chance to qualify with a loss to Jamaica in the Nations League quarterfinals. Mauro Biello's side was up 3-1 on aggregate before being eliminated 4-4 on away goals in a colossal second-leg collapse in Toronto.

The four winning quarterfinalists ultimately secured their places in the Copa America.

Larin, whose goals against Mexico and the U.S. helped Canada reach the 2022 World Cup, again came up big when his country desperately needed a breakthrough.

The game in Dallas was slipping into a petty shoving match when the 28-year-old coolly slotted a left-footed shot into the bottom left corner in the 61st minute.

But Canada's lead was far from safe. Maxime Crepeau, in goal for Canada for the first time since March 2022, made a big save when Levi Garcia played a one-two before streaking into the box in the 85th minute.

Shaffelburg struck the post shortly after, but the pride of Nova Scotia put the result beyond doubt with a fierce strike that booked Canada a match against its highest-profile opponent at a major tournament.

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