Without Messi, Argentina labors to 2-0 win over Indonesia in friendly

Without Messi, Argentina labors to 2-0 win over Indonesia in friendly

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Argentina struggled to create chances without Lionel Messi in the team as it labored to a 2-0 win over Indonesia in a friendly on Monday, with both goals coming from defensive-minded players.

Holding midfielder Leandro Paredes scored a long-range opener in the first half just as the team was growing frustrated at its inability to break down a team ranked 149th in the world. Tottenham defender Cristian Romero added the second soon after the break.

Messi, who scored in a 2-1 win over Australia in Beijing on Thursday, was allowed to return home early by coach Lionel Scaloni in order to rest. The 35-year-old Messi is expected to make his debut for Inter Miami in July after leaving Paris Saint-Germain for the MLS club earlier this month.

With Messi having told Chinese media that he may not continue playing for the national team long enough to take part in the 2026 World Cup, Argentina may soon have to get used to the idea of being without the superstar, who led the country to a third World Cup triumph in Qatar last December.

“In principle Messi is still in the national team and it is not worth talking about that topic anymore,” Scaloni said. “We would like him to play forever but at some point he will leave and it will be a very sad day for everyone.”

Argentina still dominated possession in its first ever game against Indonesia but struggled to break down the host, which was roared on by more than 60,000 fans — including the country’s president, Joko Widodo.

After sustained pressure, missed chances and determined defending, it took a goal worthy of Messi himself to break the deadlock.

With seven minutes remaining of the first half, Paredes picked up possession more than 30 yards from goal and unleashed a powerful shot that gave goalkeeper Ernando Ari no chance.

Indonesia almost drew level early in the second half with its best chance as a header from Ipswich defender Elkan Baggott was heading for the top corner before it was tipped over by goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez.

Romero then doubled Argentina’s lead after 54 minutes by heading in a corner for his second goal for his country.


More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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