Argentina to tour US after China cancels two friendlies over Lionel Messi row

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Argentina to tour US after China cancels two friendlies over Lionel Messi row

The Argentina Football Association (AFA) said Thursday the national team will play two friendlies in the United States in March after China cancelled matches in a spat over a Lionel Messi no-show in Hong Kong.

Argentina’s coach Lionel Scaloni (left) and Argentina’s forward Lionel Messi take part in a training session at Qatar University in Doha on December 8, 2022, on the eve of the Qatar 2022 World Cup quarter-final football match between The Netherlands and Argentina. Photo: Juan Mabromata/AFP.

The world champions will play El Salvador in Philadelphia on March 22 and Nigeria in Los Angeles four days later, the AFA said on its website.

They were meant to play Nigeria in Hangzhou and African champions Ivory Coast in Beijing, but these matches were cancelled after Argentina captain Messi did not play in a match on February 4 — taken by China as a political snub.

The eight-time Ballon d’Or winner is idolized by fans in China but stayed on the bench during Inter Miami’s 4-1 win in a pre-season tour match against a Hong Kong select XI.

A near 40,000 sellout crowd, having paid upwards of 1,000 Hong Kong dollars (US$125) to see the 36-year-old superstar in action, chanted “Refund!”, gave thumbs-down signs and booed Messi and the team’s co-owner David Beckham after the final whistle.

Messi insists his absence was forced by injury.

The United States will host the Copa America in June and July, where Argentina will seek to retain the crown it took in Brazil in 2021.

Dateline:

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Type of Story: News Service

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