Lionel Messi's latest quest for international glory in the twilight of his career is off to a smooth start with Argentina's 2-0 win over Canada at the Copa America opening.

Despite winning accolades galore at club level from an early age, it took Messi until 34 to triumph with Argentina at a major international tournament, lifting first the 2021 Copa America then the 2022 World Cup.

Now, with fans wondering if this is his last dance on the big stage, Messi's Argentina are red hot favourites to win a successive Copa America.

The stage appears set for Messi, who turns 37 next week.

Perennial rivals Brazil are on a poor run of form while Argentina are brimming with talent all around, headlined by their captain, and the July 14 Copa final takes place in Florida where Messi is ending his career with Major League Soccer club Inter Miami.

Thursday night's victory over Canada on a below-par temporary grass pitch in Atlanta was not a vintage performance: the Argentine captain and talisman missed a couple of clear chances though he also had a hand in both goals.

"The important thing is that we started with a win," said Messi, whose team had started the last World Cup with a defeat by Saudi Arabia that was one of the all-time shocks.

"We struggled a bit in the first half and the pitch didn't help either," he added after his record 35th Copa America finals appearance. "We'll always give our best, sometimes playing better, sometimes worse, but always fighting our hardest."


It was Messi's perfectly weighted pass to Alexis Mac Allister that made Julian Alvarez's opener followed by another controlled through ball to assist Lautaro Martinez's second.

"When Lionel Messi gets going, everything looks easy," football writer Diego Provenzano wrote in Argentine daily Clarin.

Messi could yet make the 2026 World Cup, depending on how his body holds up, but coach Lionel Scaloni has urged fans to stop speculating about that and just enjoy the moment.

"It doesn't make much sense to be thinking about when they are not here," he said of Messi and veteran striker Angel Di Maria. "Let's enjoy them now. Then we'll see what happens."

Argentina next face Chile and Peru in Group A of the U.S.-hosted tournament between 16 teams in the Americas.

With some, including French striker Kylian Mbappe, suggesting the Copa is inferior to the also ongoing European Championship, Messi noted that his tournament included teams with 10 World Cups between them: Brazil (5) Argentina (3), and Uruguay (2).

"There are a lot of world champions left out to say that it (the Euros) is the most difficult tournament," he said.

(Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; editing by Miral Fahmy)