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Doubts over Messi’s fitness cast shadow over Argentina’s ‘final’ against Mexico

Argentina’s World Cup hopes have taken another hit after it was revealed that captain and talisman Lionel Messi was not in perfect fitness.

The Paris Saint-Germain star chose not to join Thursday’s full team practice session and chose to train alone, a journalist at the team’s base camp in Doha reported.

Messi, who made a far from dream debut in Qatar after Albiceleste suffered a humble 2-1 defeat to Saudi Arabia, is not 100 per cent fit, but he is ready for Saturday’s tense clash with Mexico. It is expected to start.

A result is needed to keep Argentina’s serious hopes of qualifying for the knockout stage alive. They are currently bottom of Group C, one point behind Mexico and Poland, who had a goalless draw last Wednesday.

Coach Lionel Scaroni has yet to decide on a starting line-up for Saturday’s game, people close to him said. Messi is expected to start but presents a dilemma of choice, both in the full-back position and in the backbone of the team. A key decision is whether to start Cristian Romero or Lisandro Martinez in center half, and whether Enzo Fernandes or Alexis Mack Allister will play in center midfield.

Concerns about Messi’s fitness had been expressed before kick-off in Qatar, but playmakers were trying to dispel any doubts about his physical condition.

“I’m feeling really good. I’m in a great moment personally and physically. No problems. I had an injury and I trained differently, but fortunately it’s nothing new,” Laura said. Pulga said. tournament.

Defeat “Ouch”

Messi gave Argentina an early lead from the penalty spot on their 36-game unbeaten streak, but didn’t shine in the loss to Saudi Arabia.

Saleh Alsheri surprised the world by leveling early in the second half. Salem Al-Dawsari scored a sensational winner just minutes later.

Argentina had three goals ruled out for offside in the first half as their World Cup opener finished flat.

After the game, forward Lautaro Martínez admitted that the result “was so painful”.

“We lost the game because of our mistakes, especially in the second half,” said Martinez, who plays for Inter Milan. “There are details that make a difference, and mistakes have to be corrected.”

He added: “We should have scored several goals in the first half, but it’s the World Cup. Now we have to rest and think ahead. Those are the two finals now. ”

Messi said the team had accepted defeat and the players were determined to put things right.

“This group will not give up. We want to beat Mexico,” said the captain. “There are no excuses. We will come together more than ever. This group is strong and we have shown it so far.”

‘stand up’

Despite the shock of the World Cup, Scaroni said he was confident all was not lost with two Group C games still to go.

“The first thing we need to do is get back on our feet and play Mexico. Everybody is in the World Cup so they will be tough. We need to win two games to move on. Of course, it’s going to be difficult, but regardless of today’s result, we’re going to try to win every game anyway.”

Two-time World Cup winners Argentina entered the tournament as one of the favourites. Scaroni claimed his team didn’t take their opponents lightly.

“Like any other team, we have full respect for Saudi Arabia. That’s not the reason for our defeat,” said the coach. It’s a team and they’re very well prepared physically.”

Naturally, the Saudis were delighted with their victory. After the final whistle blew, celebrations erupted across the capital Riyadh, with fans forming impromptu dance circles and waving sword-decorated national flags from the windows of speeding cars.

King Salman declares a national holiday after his stunning World Cup win, benefiting “all employees in the public and private sectors, and male and female students of all levels of education” I ordered

After the game, Saudi Arabia’s French coach Hervé Renard said: “All the stars in the sky were there, but let’s not forget that Argentina are still a great team. “This is football. Sometimes it’s completely crazy. may occur.”

As for enjoying the moment, he was looking forward to Saudi Arabia’s next games against Poland and Mexico. Especially after both teams played a scoreless draw last Wednesday and Saudi Arabia took pole position.

Aston Villa stopper Emiliano Martinez said in the mixed zone after Tuesday’s match, “We were hurt and very hurt by our first defeat and the World Cup.”Saturday is our first World Cup final. is.”

– Times/AFP

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