Messi doubtful for Argentina despite Miami return


Argentina captain Lionel Messi is doubtful for Thursday’s World Cup qualifier against Paraguay.

Messi, 36, missed five of the past six games with a hamstring injury before playing 35 minutes off the bench in Inter Miami‘s 1-0 defeat to FC Cincinnati on Saturday.

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“For him, one more training session is important, and I will talk to him to decide whether he plays or not, but I have to talk to him first and above all I have to be sure that he can start,” Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni said in Wednesday’s press conference.

Messi scored in last month’s 1-0 win over Ecuador but then missed the 3-0 win at Bolivia due to muscular problems.

“We have another game in four days against Peru and it is not so easy to define if he is available,” Scaloni said.

“He could play 80 minutes against Paraguay and not play against Peru or he could play both games. The important thing is that he feels comfortable. What leaves us calm is that if he is not fit, whoever replaces him will do just as well.”

Messi will finish the MLS season on Oct. 22 after Saturday’s defeat left Inter Miami out of contention for the MLS playoffs. The former Barcelona star will return to action with Argentina in November’s World Cup qualifiers against Uruguay and Brazil.

Asked if he is concerned about Messi’s inactivity until Inter Miami resume preseason training next year, Scaloni said: “As far as the national team is concerned, he will be active until the next FIFA date [November] so it does not affect us much.

“He will be with training and matches, it is not a problem. I didn’t talk about what will happen next, he will have his well-deserved vacation and he will then return to train with his team later on, but in the national team it doesn’t disrupt the plans much.”

Scaloni, meanwhile, said he is thrilled by last week’s announcement that world champions Argentina will host one of the 2030 World Cup’s opening matches.

“It is a joy for everyone that Argentina can play a World Cup match in its country, but we still cannot think about 2030,” Scaloni said. “The Argentina national team is constantly evolving, and the players will be those who are the best.

“Whether I will be there will depend on the results, as always. Whoever is sitting will have the enormous pride of directing a World Cup match in your country.”

Argentina, who are without injured trio Ángel Di María, Ángel Correa and Paulo Dybala, host Paraguay in Buenos Aires on Thursday before taking on Peru in Lima on Oct.17.


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