It was the much awaited return to International football for Lionel Messi. After their 4-2 humbling at the hands of France, Messi had not played a single minute for Argentina over 3 International breaks. And then all of a sudden, he was back. Messi was sensationally named in the Argentine squad for the March international break.
He was brought back for the two International friendlies against Venezuela and Morocco ahead of the Copa America. The fairy tale return was supposed to be the start of the road to Copa America 2019. It was also probably his last chance of winning a trophy with the International team.
But it all came crashing down in his first friendly since the World Cup at the Wanda Metropolitano of all places. Rafael Dudamel’s Venezuela tore Argentina apart, with their physical play. Jose Solomon Rondon scored in the 6th minute to mark their intentions for the game.
Jhon Murillo and Josef Martinez scored as well, with a solitary Lautaro Martinez goal sandwiched in between. The win was pretty impressive on Venezuela’s part while Argentina were shocked and humiliated once again. Luis Scaloni, the Argentina coach, was left red-faced. He neither started Paulo Dybala, nor brought him on from the bench. Meanwhile, Sergio Aguero was not even called up for the team.
In the aftermath of the friendly defeat, Argentina’s camp have announced that Lionel Messi has been withdrawn from the National team as a precautionary measure following a groin injury. They also announced Atalanta United’s Gonzalo Martinez will also miss the game against Morocco with a hamstring injury.
Here are the excerpts from the post match press conference of Argentina head coach Luis Scaloni:
"The second half left us with positive things and the first half with negative ones. Better that they happened that way. We learned a lot from this loss. The situations we created were largely in due part to Messi. This match helped us to see how the others played alongside Messi.”