Lionel Messi scored a pearl of a goal for Argentina in his last game before making his debut in MLS with Inter Miami. His opener, which came 90 seconds into the contest, helped Argentina defeat Australia in Beijing, 2-0. This was a rematch of the round of 16 clash in the 2022 World Cup. Argentina won that narrow fixture, 2-1, en route to lifting the World Cup trophy.
Much like in that game, it was Lionel Messi to provide the impetus against the Socceroos. Messi picked up a pass from Chelsea’s Enzo Fernandez about 24 yards from goal. A quick touch to his left sent Australia’s Aiden O’Neill to the floor. Then, Messi wrapped a patented left-footed curler around Mathew Ryan. The goal came 80 seconds into the game, which is Messi’s fastest goal of his career.
Immediately after, Argentina was the one applying all the pressure. Australia, which did look a little shakey at times in the midfield and defense, hung through. It took around 20 minutes for Australia to truly settle into the game, and it did provide some chances of its own. Perhaps the best chance came in the 28th minute. Mitch Duke redirected a cross toward Emiliano Martinez. The goalkeeper, who won the Golden Glove in Qatar, made a snap save onto his left-hand post. That preserved Argentina’s one-goal lead.
Much of Australia’s success came down the left side with Jordy Bos. The left-back who plays for Melbourne City in the A-League was making his debut with Australia. He not only delivered the cross on Mitch Duke’s attempt, but he also fired a few shots of his own that narrowly went wide.
Messi sees out Argentina victory in last game before MLS debut
Even though the game was fairly even for the last 35 minutes of the first half, it was Argentina to find the only goal of the second half. A well-worked corner between Messi and Rodrigo de Paul led to the midfielder lobbing a ball into the Australian penalty box. Germán Pezzella was the only person waiting in the box. The Real Betis defender just guided the ball with his head into Ryan’s lower left-hand corner.
From then on, no team had a true clear-cut chance. One of the best moments did come from Messi, though. The now-MLS player picked the ball up not far from the halfway line. He dribbled past three different Australians with some nimble footwork. He sprayed the ball out to Manchester United playmaker Alejandro Garnacho, who was making his first appearance with the senior Argentina squad.
Even though that led to nothing, it is a taste of what Messi is bringing to Major League Soccer, even in arguably the twilight of his career.
Messi off for next month
Even though Argentina has a friendly on Monday against Indonesia, head coach Lionel Scaloni said Messi is receiving an extended vacation. Therefore, he will not play in Jakarta on Monday. The superstar finished a turbulent season with PSG just this month.
However, by joining Inter Miami this summer, he is jumping back into his club calendar earlier than expected. While most of his international teammates will have time off in July, Messi returns to play in mid-July.
Of course, there is no guarantee over when Messi is making his official debut with Inter Miami. The league and DC United want him involved in the MLS All-Star Game against Arsenal on July 19. Yet, it looks more likely that he is making his debut against Cruz Azul on July 21. Regardless, Messi with Argentina showed what MLS fans can look forward to in his debut in the United States.
PHOTO: IMAGO / Xinhua
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