Argentina icon Lionel Messi scored twice in 11 minutes to decide the game when Argentina were last in 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifying action.
The captain played a pivotal role as the reigning champions continued their perfect record in qualifying, netting both goals in the 2-0 win against Peru in Lima.
Argentina now have something of a top-of-the-table clash against Uruguay in Buenos Aires, although their second-placed opponents are five points behind them, level with Brazil and Venezuela after four matches.
Could Messi start this time? What have his preparations been like for Argentina’s latest qualifiers? Here’s the latest.
It is almost certain that Messi will start for Argentina in one of the tougher-looking matches in their qualifying group.
The 36-year-old’s club side, Inter Miami, held a friendly against NYCFC in Florida on Saturday on an occasion dedicated to the eighth Ballon d’Or win of Messi’s career at the end of October
With Inter’s season finished, the game was also an opportunity for Messi to hone his fitness ahead of international duty, which may explain why he was involved throughout the 2-1 defeat.
Inter Miami had previously scheduled two friendlies in China to help Messi maintain his fitness, but those were cancelled by the tour promoter due to “unforeseen circumstances in China”.
Argentina also play Brazil in a World Cup qualifier in Rio on Wednesday, giving them an opportunity to put themselves well clear in the race to reach the 2026 tournament in Canada, Mexico and the US.
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Manchester United winger Alejandro Garnacho didn’t make the Argentina squad, which is a sign of how much strength in depth Lionel Scaloni can call upon in his squad.
Messi is likely to start in a free role, with the likes of Rodrigo de Paul and Enzo Fernandez tasked with covering the ground behind him.
Argentina projected starting lineup (4-3-3): E. Martinez (GK) — Molina, Romero, Otamendi, Acuna — De Paul, E. Fernandez, Mac Allister — J. Alvarez, L. Martinez, Messi