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Argentina to Play Two Friendlies in United States Amid China-Messi Spat – News18


Lionel Messi realised his World Cup dream in 2022 in Qatar. (AP Photo)

According to the new schedule, Argentina will take on El Salvador in Philadelphia on the 22nd of March and Nigeria in Los Angeles on the 26th of March, as per an official statement from the AFA.

Things got messy for Messi’s Argentina, who are currently amid a spat following the superstar’s absence during an Inter Miami friendly that happened in Hong Kong, which resulted in the state refusing to host two of the Albicelestes’ friendly matches.

Now, the Argentina Football Association (AFA) has decided that the side will play those two friendly matches in the United States, which is set to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup as well.

According to the new schedule, Argentina will take on El Salvador in Philadelphia on the 22nd of March and Nigeria in Los Angeles on the 26th of March, as per an official statement from the AFA.

Initially the friendly match against Nigeria and one more against Ivory Coast were set to take place in Hangzhou and Beijing respectively, but both were cancelled on the back of the Argentine’s inability to appear in front of the Chinese fans in Inter Miami colours during their tour.

Inter Miami’s Messi was slated to play against a select XI from Hong Kong on February 4 as a part of their tour. But, the eight-time Ballon D’or winner took a seat on Miami’s bench throughout the entirety of the game as the MLS side won 4-1.

His absence from the field was greeted by boos and jeers from the thousands of fans who had purchased the heftily-priced tickets to witness the magic of the World Cup-winning Argentine in Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous Chinese territory.

As criticism ramped up against Messi, the sports bureau in Hangzhou cancelled next month’s friendly between Nigeria and World Cup champion Argentina, captained by Messi, in China for “the reasons known to all.”

Similarly, Beijing Football Association also stated that they had no interest in hosting another friendly game where Argentina was slated to face off against Ivory Coast next month.

In order to clear the air, Messi also spoke of the ‘very close and special’ relationship he holds with China, and reiterated that it was indeed injury, specifically an inflammation of an adductor, that had ruled him out of action on the occasion.

“As I said in the press conference, I had an inflamed adductor and I couldn’t play in the first game in Saudi Arabia, which is when I felt it. In the second game in Saudi, I tried to play (but it got worse),” stated Messi in an apology message posted on Chinese social media platform Weibo.

“Then, on the day before the match (in Hong Kong), I tried to train and made an effort for all those who’d come to watch training. I did all I could.

“As always, I send good wishes to everyone in China who I have always had and continue to have special affection for. I hope to see you again soon,” signed off Messi.

(with inputs from agencies)



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