International Friendly: Messi brace sees Argentina crush Nicaragua 5-1
What's the story?
A Lionel Messi-lead Argentina decimated minnows Nicaragua is a preparatory friendly for the Copa America by 5-1 in San Juan.
Messi and Inter Milan striker Lautaro Martinez both scored braces while Waford winger Roberto Pereyra completed a five-start performance for the Albiceleste.
In case you didn't know...
Having lost the last two Copa America finals, in 2015 and 2016 (both times to Chile), manager Lionel Scaloni has picked a strong squad composed of some big names from Europe's top clubs as the Albiceleste look to put up a strong title challenge in the 2019 Copa America.
Argentina have had a patchy record since the takeover of the new manager, winning five games, losing two and drawing one since Scaloni took the helm.
Lionel Messi had come back from international retirement in March after the Argentine Federation and Scaloni managed to convince their star man to leave the disappointment of losing three finals in a row and the harsh criticism from the Argentina media, behind.
Messi joined the Argentina squad after a glittering 2018-19 season with Barcelona, where he scored a sensational 51 goals across all competitions.
The heart of the matter
The little magician opened the scoring against FIFA Rank 129 Nicaragua in the 37th minute, with a trademark weaving, mesmerizing solo run, going past three defenders to smartly finish.
The Argentine talisman scored again in the very next minute, tapping in a rebound after the Nicaraguan goalkeeper had parried a Sergio Aguero shot into his path. Aguero and Messi were soon substituted off by Scaloni, with the manager clearly not wanting to risk any injury to his star forwards.
Inter Milan striker Martinez, who had earlier courted much media attention after he was selected ahead of club-mate and superstar Mauro Icardi into the Argentina squad, sealed the victory by curling one to triple the lead in the 63rd minute. He fired in a fourth goal in the 73rd minute to put the game truly to bed.
Another substitute, Watford's electric winger Roberto Pereyra, added further gloss to the Argentine victory with a tap-in in the 81st minute. What should have been a dominant win suffered a minor blemish when Nicaragua converted a penalty in stoppage time after a Nicolas Otamendi handball.
The Albiceleste are drawn in Group B of the Copa America 2019, along with Colombia, Paraguay and Asian champions Qatar. They face the James Rodriguez and Radamel Falcao-led Colombia in Salvador on 16 June.Published 08 Jun 2019, 11:55 IST