Lionel Messi left out of Argentina WCQ win over Bolivia

Argentina manager Lionel Scaloni has said he left Lionel Messi out of Argentina’s matchday squad for Tuesday’s World Cup qualifying win against Bolivia because the forward was feeling unwell.

“He told me he wasn’t feeling well,” Scaloni told ESPN Argentina. “It didn’t make sense, it was going to be risky for him to come on in the second half, the high altitude is a difficult place. It didn’t make sense.”

The Inter Miami star was substituted late on in Argentina’s victory over Ecuador on Thursday after he had scored the only goal of the game with a free kick.

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Scaloni said after that game that Messi had “felt something,” while the player himself said he was just “a little bit tired.”

But he was not named in the starting lineup or among the substitutes by Scaloni for Tuesday’s second round of qualifiers for the 2026 World Cup.

Despite not featuring, Messi still traveled to the high-altitude Bolivian capital and took a set on the bench at the Estadio Hernando Siles to watch Argentina win 3-0 thanks to goals from Enzo Fernández Nicolás Tagliafico and Nicolas Gonzalez.

In the absence of Messi, Scaloni brought Benfica winger Angel Di Maria into the starting lineup as captain in a front three alongside Manchester City striker Julián Álvarez and Fiorentina’s González.

“To be handed the captain’s armband by the best player in the world is unbelievable, I’m very proud,” Di Maria said after the win.

Messi’s absence will have disappointed many Bolivians, including hundreds of local fans who turned out to welcome him to the country Sunday evening.

Messi has been in sensational form since joining MLS side Miami in July, scoring 11 goals in as many games while helping the club win the Leagues Cup, reach the U.S. Open Cup final and get back into the playoff race in MLS’ Eastern Conference.

Miami will hope to have Messi back in action when they travel to face Atlanta United on Saturday.

Information from the Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.



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