Argentina 4-0 Haiti: Winners and losers from the warm-up victory

Argentina depart for Europe following an easy win over Haiti
Argentina depart for Europe following an easy win over Haiti

Argentina began their World Cup preparations in emphatic fashion as a Lionel Messi-inspired hattrick mauled Haiti 4-0 in Buenos Aires friendly.

In a ridiculously lopsided affair, the Barcelona ace opened the scoring from the spot after Lo Celso was brought down inside the area with a rash challenge. Les Bicolores were fortunate to be only one down at half-time, but a vibrant Messi added two more in the second-half to round off his hat-trick before Aguero made it four from the bench.

The Albiceleste in all, had 21 shots, 11 of which were on target (Haiti had nada!) and also dominated possession with 77%. The gap between the two nations is that of 105 ranks, and it showed throughout the game.

Here are some winners and losers from the friendly:

Winner: Lionel Messi

Messi is all pumped up for the World Cup!
Messi is all pumped up for the World Cup!

Coming off the back of another successful season with the Blaugrana, Messi carried his rich vein of form into the international colours too. Starting as one of the two strikers in the 4-4-2 line-up, the No.10 stole the limelight with his eye-catching attacking exploits.

Some magical first-touches and promising runs not only served an amusement to the thronging fans but also set the tone for his evening. Whilst neither of the goals were amazeballs, it was a testament to Messi's excellent positioning. He was in the right place and at the right time in the build-up to his second and third of the evening; a pair of easy but composed finishes from La Pulga inside the box.

This was also his second international hattrick in as many appearances (6th overall), and took his tally to 64, just 7 behind his great rival Ronaldo on the international stage.

Messi is pivotal to Argentina's World Cup hopes as always, but the Russian showpiece may be his last shot at a World Cup glory. And on current evidence, he looks prepared to take the competition by storm.

Loser: Paulo Dybala

Dybala wasn't given a single minute!
Dybala wasn't given a single minute!

For all his promising displays with Juventus and another impressive club campaign behind him, Dybala isn't starting at the World Cup. He lags behind in the pecking order and his only chances of featuring are from the bench. But after today's game, he may be wondering just how limited would that even be.

Forget starting the friendly, the Bianconeri starlet did not even play a single minute of the game and was left warming the bench throughout. Sergio Aguero replaced Gonzalo Higuain in the attack while Messi was handed full 90 minutes, despite completing his hattrick well before time.

For Dybala to impress and make a case, he needs more game time. But the fact that he was snubbed even for a warm-up match like this doesn't spell anything positive. It now appears that we may get to see him very few and far between, just like a young and promising Kaka in the 2002 World Cup, who played just 20 minutes of the title-winning campaign.

The only silver lining here is they still have to play Israel before flying off to Russia. And Dybala would be hoping to not only start but also make an impression.

Winner: Christian Pavon

Should Pavon start at the World Cup?
Should Pavon start at the World Cup?

While Dybala cut a forlorn figure from the bench, another youngster Christian Pavon made merry. The 22-year old replaced Angel Di Maria at the hour mark and hit the ground running.

Pavon injected more vim and vigour to the attack than what the PSG ace could muster, bursting forward at will and laying incisive passes in or around the area. In fact, it took him just seven minutes after coming on to leave a mark on the game when he headed the ball down to Messi's path off Higuain's cross, and he immediately tripled the home side's lead.

This was Pavon's third assist in Argentinian colours in 5 caps since making his debut in November last year. Just three minutes later, he was then involved in the build-up to the fourth, releasing Messi with a through ball who then fed an on-rushing Aguero.

The Cordoba forward has had an impressive start to his international career, and some more promising shows at the World Cup might as well earn him a lucrative move to Europe.

Loser: Gonzalo Higuain

Higuain was once again overshadowed by Messi
Higuain was once again overshadowed by Messi

How the Juventus forward continues to start for Argentina is still a mystery. Yes, he has scored goals, plenty of them in fact, but when it came to performing at the biggest stages of them all, he bottled. Higuain was guilty of missing three sitters in three finals from 2014 to 2016. Yet, somehow, the Argentina managers continue to have faith in him.

Today he partnered with Messi in the attack but was completely eclipsed by the Barcelona great. That is partly down to the former's treble, but Higuain has himself to blame partially as well. He lacked composure going forward and his first-touches inside the box did little to inspire confidence. His only meaningful contribution to the game was the run down to the byline and send in a cross that Pavon headed towards Messi, who then coolly buried it from near point blank range.

He was replaced by Aguero at the hour mark, and the Manchester City striker struck just 10 minutes later.

Yet, Higuain is certain to start ahead of him at the World Cup, at least for the first two games by the end of which they would aim to secure a first position in the group. But to really have an impact in the campaign, the 30-year old must do better; way better than this.

Winner: Javier Mascherano

Mascherano was commemorated for his 143rd cap with Argentina
Mascherano was commemorated for his 143rd cap with Argentina

Ahead of the kick-off, the Argentinian veteran was honoured with a commemorative shirt as he pulled level with Zavier Zanetti as the most capped player for Albiceleste with his 143rd appearance. The 33-year old is all set to hang up his boots post the Russian showpiece but would be writing a piece of history before driving into the sunset.

Mascherano was joined by his son on the field as Argentina acknowledged and applauded one of its stalwarts ahead of his last competition with the team. And with at least 3 more caps guaranteed, the former Barcelona midfielder would be signing off as the most capped player in its history, albeit for the time being.

While his special evening was shrouded amid another Messi masterclass, Mascherano, in all honesty, had little to do. Haiti spent most of the game in their own half and only mustered two shots at goal, neither of which were on target. But he can expect better challenges at the World Cup and hope to bow out on a high.

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Edited by Sripad
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