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Copa America 2016: Lionel Messi likely to miss Argentina’s opener against Chile

Lionel Messi had suffered a back injury during the friendly against Honduras.

Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi would be replaced by Nicolas Gaitan

Argentina national team captain Lionel Messi seems likely to miss their vital opening group stage match of the Copa America tournament against defending champions Chile on Monday as he is still recovering from a back injury. The 28-year-old suffered a back injury in a friendly match against Honduras in Argentina. Though the Albiceleste won the match 1-0, Messi has not trained with the team since then.

According to reports from Argentine media, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner has been training separately and is not expected to play tomorrow’s match at the Levi’s Stadium as it could aggravate his injury. With an arguably relaxed Group D, which includes Bolivia and Panama as the other teams alongside Chile, Argentina are the favourites to make it to the knockouts apart from Chile and would possibly not suffer if the team fails to deliver tomorrow as they still have other matches to make up for it.

But with them being the favourites to win the tournament, it is important that they have a fully-fit Messi in a bid to end their 23-year major trophy drought. Marcus Rojo also seconded this notion and said that the team can’t risk an aggravation of his injuries which could potentially put him out of the tournament altogether. “I wouldn’t risk him, I don’t want to lose him in the first match,” he said.

Also read: Most goals scored in a Copa America match

According to Argentine coach Gerardo Martino, Nicolas Gaitan would be the best replacement for Messi without fluctuating their game tactics. With an impeccable assist tally at Benfica in the Portuguese league, Gaitan can keep up with their pace while cutting inside to attack efficiently. Even after being left-footed, he prefers to play on the right side of the pitch and is one of the best at it.

Though Chile are expected to be relieved by this news, the match could be dull without Messi according to his Barcelona teammate and Chile’s captain Claudio Bravo. “I want him to play because he adds a lot to the match,” the Chilean goalkeeper said.

Meanwhile, Columbia’s captain James Rodriguez will also be missing his side’s Group A match against Paraguay at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on Tuesday. He had also suffered from an injury to his shoulder during their match against the United States at Santa Clara on Friday. Though they won the match 2-0, Columbia lost one of the crucial players which could work negatively for them.  

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