Lionel Messi to play against Brazil in World Cup qualifying

By DEBORA REY

BUENOS AIRES (AP) — Lionel Messi will play for Argentina when his team faces Brazil in a World Cup qualifying match on Tuesday.

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni said Monday that Messi, who has been bothered by a knee injury, will play in San Juan in a match that could earn the team a spot in next year’s World Cup.

Messi played only 15 minutes in Argentina’s 1-0 victory over Uruguay on Friday. He also missed two Paris Saint-Germain matches because of the injury.

“A few days ago he was physically fit and at the end we decided that the best would be for him to play for a few minutes so he starts getting that good feeling,” Scaloni said. “For tomorrow (Tuesday), it is confirmed that he will play. We hope he finds himself in a good place.”

The Argentines, in second place in the 10-team South American standings behind Brazil, can qualify with a victory. Brazil has already claimed one of the four automatic qualifying spots from the region.

Brazil has not won in Argentina since 2009.

Scaloni’s main doubt for the match is in the midfield. Leonardo Paredes is recovering from an injury and could once again be replaced by Guido Rodríguez.

Brazil will be missing the suspended Casemiro, who could be replaced by Fabinho. Brazil coach Tite also expects to test out other players after the 1-0 win over Colombia, possibly using Matheus Cunha up front instead of Gabriel Jesus.

In September, the qualifier between the teams was suspended after seven minutes of play because of COVID-19 protocols. FIFA has not yet announced what it will do with that match.

“I regret that match did not take place,” Tite said Monday. “(Tuesday) is a World Cup match for us, like the Colombia match was. Everything else will be secondary due to the greatness of this encounter.”

Tite said he would continue testing different players when World Cup qualifying resumes next year.

Argentina’s Lionel Messi, 10, kicks a ball during a qualifying soccer match against Uruguay for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 in Montevideo, Uruguay, Friday, Nov. 12, 2021. (Ernesto Ryan/Pool Via AP)

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