When the final whistle blew on March 23, sealing Canada’s 2-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago and the squad’s place in the 2024 Copa América, Canadian players and fans were euphoric, jumping up and down, hugging and hollering, excited about the opportunity to play in one of soccer’s largest national men’s team tournaments for the first time.

But once the elation wore off, the reality of the situation hit — Canada’s first match at the CONMEBOL and CONCACAF showpiece would be against reigning World Cup champion Argentina. In other words, not exactly the easiest opponent for the debutant to face on Thursday in Atlanta.

In the past three months, Canada has done all it can to prepare for the marquee match, including hiring experienced and lively head coach Jesse Marsch, and setting up two important friendlies with the Netherlands and France earlier in June. While the odds are certainly against Marsch’s squad, if the sport has taught us anything, it’s that nothing is impossible. 

Read on for key storylines, players to watch and more on the eve of the opening match at Copa América 2024.

Quick hits

• Canada and Argentina’s match will kick off Copa América on June 20 at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. The tournament will run until July 14 and feature 16 teams from CONMEBOL and CONCACAF federations.

• Canada and Argentina are part of Group A, which also features Peru and Chile.

• On Monday, Marsch named Bayern Munich star Alphonso Davies as Canada’s tournament captain. Porto’s Stephen Eustáquio will be vice-captain.

• Argentine superstar Lionel Messi will become Copa America’s most capped player if he gets minutes on Thursday. However, the 36-year-old Messi may not see the pitch, as it’s possible he could be rested for later group games.

• Canada’s top scorer on the squad is Cyle Larin (29), and its most capped player is Jonathan Osorio (72).

• Argentina’s top scorer and most capped on the squad is Messi with 108 goals in 182 games.