Messi scores twice in return to national team duty

SunStar Soccer
SunStar Soccer

LANDOVER, Md. (AP) — Lionel Messi scored twice and assisted on another goal in his first international start since November and Argentina outclassed Guatemala 4-1 on Friday night to complete its 2024 Copa America preparations.

Messi went the full 90 minutes for manager Lionel Scaloni after playing 35 off the bench in a 1-0 win over fellow Copa America contenders Ecuador on Sunday in Chicago.

He previously missed a pair of international friendlies in March with a hamstring issue that has also contributed to his half-dozen absences for Inter Miami in MLS play.

But his sharp performance Friday — in which he also struck the woodwork with a free kick and contributed to a sequence leading to a penalty kick goal — should ease Argentine concerns ahead of next Thursday’s group play opener against Canada in Atlanta.

Going the distance also gave Messi reps with 15 Argentina field players during the match.

“That was basically the idea, maybe to look for something different, a chance to improve,” Scaloni said through an interpreter. “Angel Di Maria came in and he played more on the inside because the way the game was shaping up it gave us the opportunity to try new things.”

Lautaro Martinez also scored twice for the defending Copa America and World Cup champions against a Guatemala side that’s 108th in FIFA’s world rankings. That included Argentina’s goal from the penalty spot, a role Messi typically assumes during tournament play. / AP

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