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Lionel Messi plays for Argentina for the first time in six months – helping them to a 1-0 win over Ecuador in a Copa America warm-up


Angel Di Maria scored as Lionel Messi returned to the international stage for the first time in six months to help Argentina to a 1-0 win over Ecuador in a Copa America warm-up on Sunday night.

Messi was sent off in the first half before being replaced by Di Maria in the 56th minute.

A right hamstring injury ruled the eight-time Ballon d’Or winner and Inter Miami star out of Argentina’s previous two Copa America warm-ups against El Salvador and Costa Rica in March.

«Sometimes there’s no need to take risks, not just with Leo. It’s about taking care of them so they arrive in optimal conditions,» Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni said of his decision to sit Messi for the first half.

With Messi watching from the bench, Di Maria headed a back pass from Christian Romero into the net to open the scoring in the 40th minute.

Lionel Messi returned to Argentina’s lineup against Ecuador on Sunday night

Messi had not played for his country in six months before his return to Soldier Field in Chicago

Messi had not played for his country in six months before his return to Soldier Field in Chicago

«It helps to play against such a rival, especially because Ecuador plays at a high level, it makes it difficult for everyone,» Scaloni said. «And we needed to come together, compete, add minutes and feel the feeling of putting on the shirt before the cup, which will be difficult.»

It was Di Maria’s second consecutive international goal. He also scored against Costa Rica on 26 March. With the 31st goal of his Argentine career, the 36-year-old midfielder is tied with Gonzalo Higuain for the fifth-highest goals in the country’s history and just four behind Diego Maradona. No. 4 on the list.

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Argentina – the reigning World Cup and Copa America champions – are unbeaten in their last seven matches against Ecuador, a streak that stretches back to 2019.

«The goal is to keep competing and these guys have competition in their blood,» Scaloni said. «Sometimes it goes well and sometimes it doesn’t. But you have to keep playing. There’s always something to play for. Now the Copa América, then the qualifiers. … Our goal is always to compete at our best.”

NEXT UP

Argentina: Lionel Scaloni’s side will wrap up a warm-up game against Guatemala in Washington DC on Friday before opening the group stage of the tournament against Canada on June 20.

Ecuador: A pair of international friendlies against Bolivia on Wednesday and Honduras on June 16 remain before opening the Copa America program against Venezuela on June 22.



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