Looking to extend their unbeaten streak to 35 games, Argentina took on Jamaica in their penultimate friendly match before the 2022 FIFA World Cup on Tuesday night (September 27). La Albiceste treated fans to a stunning display at Red Bull Arena in the United States, securing a 3-0 win. Julián Álvarez found the back of the net once before substitute Lionel Messi stole the show with an impressive brace late in the game.
Argentina, who beat Honduras 3-0 in their previous friendly on Friday (September 23), started the game slowly. Instead of taking the fight to Jamaica from the whistle, they invited some pressure, hoping to exploit the space left behind. The strategy did not bear fruit, leading Lionel Scaloni’s men to go on the offensive.
In the 13th minute, La Albiceleste scored a fantastic collective goal, with Álvarez applying a simple shot after Lautaro Martínez assisted him in a practically unmissable opportunity. Six minutes later, the scorer invited Giovani Lo Celso to shoot. The midfielder settled in and went for Andre Blake’s goal with a curling shot, but he ended up missing by a hair.
The Reggae Boyz failed to create their own chances in the first half but managed to prevent Argentina from taking the game.
Argentine coach Scaloni made a couple of changes 11 minutes into the second half, putting Messi in for Martínez and replacing Enzo Fernández with Guido Rodríguez. In the 68th minute, Messi conceded his first shot on goal, taking the ball to the rival third and firing it from very close range. Blake was forced to deflect the ball back for a corner.
Twenty minutes later, the country’s top scorer found the back of the net with a dazzling shot from more than 20 meters from goal. Blake couldn’t react fast enough to prevent the ball from slipping through. Three minutes later, Messi doubled his count, surprisingly scoring from a free kick.
Argentina were not at their ruthless best on Tuesday, but Messi’s genius carried them to a comfortable victory. Here are five Argentine players who stood out in La Albiceleste’s friendly victory over Jamaica on Tuesday:
#5 Angel Di Maria
In Messi’s absence, Ángel Di María captained Argentina on Tuesday. He didn’t score or assist against Jamaica, but his overall game was undeniably impressive. The Juventino carried the ball gracefully, stretched out the game and held on one-on-one.
At Red Bull Arena, Di María made a key pass, winning four of six duels from the field and completing two crosses and two long balls each. Di María also had two shots on goal, completed two dribbles (3 attempts) and attempted two tackles.
#4 Nicholas Otamendi
Chosen ahead of Lisandro Martínez on Tuesday, Nicolás Otamendi defended himself against Scaloni. Otamendi was rock-solid at the back, impressing onlookers with his precise distribution from the baseline and organizing his backline with remarkable authority.
The Benfica star accurately delivered 13 of 15 long balls, made a key pass and won three of four duels on the ground. He also made five clearances, intercepted the ball three times and attempted two tackles. All in all, it was a flawless display from the veteran centre-back.
#3 Julian Alvarez
Manchester City talent Julian Alvarez played some impressive football against Jamaica on Tuesday night. In the 13th minute, he found himself in the right place at the right time to take advantage of Martinez’s pass. He also went on to create scoring opportunities for his teammates and assisted at the back from time to time.
Against Jamaica, Álvarez made three key passes, delivered five accurate long balls (6 attempts), attempted two tackles and made an interception.
#2 Young Lo Celso
Villarreal central midfielder Giovani Lo Celso was the standout midfielder on the pitch on Tuesday. His distribution was brilliant, he stood his ground in duels, wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty and worked tirelessly through the night.
Against Jamaica, Lo Celso made a key pass, winning all eight of his duels on the ground, making 70 accurate passes (93.3% accuracy) and delivering three accurate long balls (3 attempts). He also drew three fouls, won four of five tackle attempts and had two interceptions.
#1 Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi, a seven-time Ballon d’Or winner, was introduced 11 minutes into the second half. As always, Messi spent the first few minutes familiarizing himself with the rhythm of the game. Once he did, the result was exceptional.
Messi scored two excellent goals in the 86th and 89th minutes, conceding the first into the lower corner from distance and scoring the second from a free kick. The way he shot his free kick low around the wall from 18 yards out was a sight to behold.
As well as scoring a brace, Messi also made two key passes, won five rushing games, attempted a tackle and committed a foul.
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