Messi on target as Argentina down Guatemala in Copa warm-up

Argentina’s forward #10 Lionel Messi controls the ball during the international friendly football match between Guatemala and Argentina at Commanders Field in Greater Landover, Maryland, on June 14, 2024. AFP

Lionel Messi scored twice as Argentina wrapped up their preparations for the Copa America with a 4-1 friendly victory over Guatemala in Maryland on Friday.

Messi grabbed an early equaliser and then dinked in Argentina’s fourth as the world champions came from behind in what was their final game before they launch the defence of their Copa America crown against Canada in Atlanta next Thursday.

Guatemala took a shock lead after only four minutes at Commanders Field in Landover when a free-kick from Oscar Santis from wide on the left sowed confusion in the Argentina defence.

Santis’s cross bobbled across the six-yard box and ended with Manchester United’s Lisandro Martinez scooping an attempted clearance into his net for an own goal.

But Argentina did not have to wait long to get back on level terms and equalised in the 12th minute after a disastrous blunder by Guatemala goalkeeper Nicholas Hagen.

Under no real pressure, Hagen screwed an attempted clearance from a back pass straight to an unmarked Messi in the middle of the penalty area.

The Argentina captain duly took full advantage of his gift-wrapped opportunity, taking a touch and coolly tucking away his 107th international goal.

Thereafter it was a question of when not if Argentina would add their second, with Guatemala sitting deep and inviting pressure.

Argentina eventually took the lead from the penalty spot on 39 minutes after Guatemala defender Nicolas Samayoa chopped down Valentin Carboni after the 19-year-old forward darted to the byline.

Messi elected to pass up the opportunity of the spot-kick, and instead it was Lautaro Martinez who stepped up to fire home the penalty and make it 2-1.

Argentina almost extended their lead on the stroke of half-time when Messi crashed a low rasping free-kick from the edge of the area against the inside of the post.

Lautaro Martinez’s overhead kick from the rebound also hit the woodwork, and although Lisandro Martinez bundled the loose ball into the net, the Manchester United defender was ruled offside.

The Argentines made it 3-1 on 66 minutes with a fine team goal.

Messi found Enzo Fernandez in space on the edge of the area, and the Chelsea midfielder then threaded a pass back to Messi inside the penalty area.

The Inter Miami star’s first touch teed up Lautaro Martinez for a simple close-range finish.

Messi then completed his double with the goal of the game on 77 minutes, latching onto a sublime through ball from fellow veteran Angel Di Maria and lifting a deft finish over Hagen for 4-1.

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