Messi exits last match of 2023 early


Lionel Messi’s action-packed year has come to an end.

Messi, the World Cup champion and Inter Miami star, was held scoreless and appeared to reinjure his right leg in his final match of 2023. But his side was still victorious.

Nicolás Otamendi scored a header in the 64th minute to lead Argentina past Brazil 1-0 in a 2026 World Cup qualifying match Tuesday night at the iconic Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.

It was an eventful outing at the Maracanã, where Messi and Argentina lost the 2014 World Cup to Germany, but won the 2021 Copa America.

Argentina handed Brazil its first ever home loss in a World Cup qualifying match in what could have been Messi’s final match at the historic Brazilian venue, despite fighting in the stands that caused a delay.

“We needed this victory after the defeat against Uruguay,” Messi said after the match.”We knew it was going to be a tough game, similar to the one in the Copa América final. They pressed a lot, they went to look for us high up and it was difficult for us to have long possessions. These games are defined by details.”

Messi entered the match as the all-time leader with 31 goals scored in CONMEBOL action, but without a goal against Brazil. He was unable to change that distinction in 77 minutes, leaving the match as a substitute.

Messi appeared to injure his right leg in the first half against Brazil. He had his right quadricep evaluated by a trainer on the sideline during the 28th minute of the match, but remained in the game.

It’s unclear whether the injury caused Messi – who was slowed by a similar right leg injury that kept him out of six Inter Miami matches and a qualifier in September – to leave the match early.

“Leo is the only player in the world who can be on the field in the conditions he played today. He did it to the best of his ability and gave the team a hand,” Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni said in his postgame presser.

Messi said he “felt injured at the beginning of the match, but I coped with it. It’s not (severe), and I hope to come back stronger.”

The match was delayed by at least 25 minutes due to fighting in the stands. Messi and his Argentine teammates jumped over a partition to go toward a section where fighting fans were mediated by police before the match.

Messi led his Argentine team back into the locker room as the ruckus subsided, and the match slated for a 7:30 p.m. ET start began shortly after 7:55 p.m. ET.

Messi picked up a foul in the first minute of the match, and had only one shot in the match, a left boot that collided with a Brazilian defender just minutes before the deciding goal.

Otamendi rose above two Brazilian defenders to send a corner kick by Giovani Lo Celso into the back of the net.

Argentina has 15 points after six CONMEBOL matches in September, October and November.

Messi is in the twilight of his standout career, riding the high of his World Cup win with Argentina last December, and his monumental transfer from Paris Saint-Germain to Inter Miami this year.

Earlier Tuesday, Inter Miami denied its involvement in a potential match that could see Messi face rival Cristiano Ronaldo in Saudi Arabia early next year.

Now, Messi turns his attention to some much-deserved rest and relaxation for the rest of the year before rejoining Inter Miami for training camp in January.

The start of Tuesday’s match between Argentina and Brazil was delayed due to a situation in the stands at the iconic Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.

Play began shortly after 7:55 p.m. ET, although the Argentina-Brazil match was set to begin at 7:30 p.m. ET and broadcast by Telemundo.

A section of fans was separated by police for fighting before the match, causing Lionel Messi and members of the Argentine national team to approach the stands. Messi and his teammates hurdled a partition to go toward the stands in a section where police were intervening.

Messi and his teammates left the area near the stands to come back onto the pitch, but exited to the locker rooms. It was unclear whether Argentina returned inside to line up for the pregame lineup announcement.

The Brazilian players remained on the pitch, and the Argentine side eventually returned to begin the match.

As the broadcast panned to the crowds, a heavy police presence was seen on the field and in the stands.

Leo Messi has been substituted out of Argentina’s match against Brazil in the 77th minute.

His night is over.

It’s unclear whether Messi felt fatigued by a right quad injury he had tended to by a trainer near the Argentine bench during the 28th minute.

But his 2023 has come to an end.

Messi failed to score a goal in his last four matches, and he went scoreless in what could have been his final match at Maracanã Stadium.

Messi hadn’t scored a goal against Brazil in a World Cup qualifying match in his career entering Tuesday’s game. That distinction will stand.

Nicolás Otamendi was in the right place at the right time, and Argentina has the lead.

Otamendi’s header in the 64th minute has given Argentina a 1-0 lead in this match.

Otamendi rose above two Brazilian defenders to take a corner kick by Giovani Lo Celso, and he sent it into the back of the net.

About three minutes earlier, Messi didn’t have a great look, but he took a left-footed shot toward the net.

Still, Argentina is now leading in the second half of this testy match against Brazil.

Gabriel Jesus led a Brazilian charge toward the net, but Gabriel Martinelli’s right boot was blocked by Argentine goalie Emiliano Martínez in the 58th minute.

The second half has provided chippy play from both Argentina and Brazil, just like the first half and pregame fights have in this match.

Both sides have 30 minutes remaining the settle this one.

Brazil’s Bruno Guimarães won a chance at a free kick, but the Brazilians were unable to convert on the opportunity in the 38th minute.

The kick by Raphinha, the Barcelona standout in La Liga, outside the penalty box flew over the crossbar.

One sequence later following a corner kick, a header by Brazil’s Marquinhos was also missed near the net.

Leo Messi was shown having his upper right quadricep evaluated by a trainer near the Argentine bench during the 28th minute of the match.

Messi recently recovered from a right leg injury that hampered him during the month of September, missing six matches with Inter Miami and an Argentine match.

Messi stayed in the match after being evaluated on the sideline for about two minutes.

Still, it’s something to monitor based on Messi’s recent injury.

Messi and Argentina have three shot attempts in this match. And the Brazilians have more than double that in fouls.

Brazil has seven fouls and two yellow cards, while Argentina has just two fouls in the first 15 minutes of this match. And both sides added a foul each in the next two minutes.

Gabriel Jesus and Raphinha picked up yellow cards early for Brazil.

Messi began the match with a foul of his own in the first minute, and assisted on the first of two Argentina shots in the ninth minute.

Argentina vs. Brazil preview

No one has scored more goals than Lionel Messi in South American World Cup qualifying.

Messi has scored 31 career goals in CONMEBOL matchups, but has yet to score against Brazil.

Messi, the World Cup champion and Inter Miami star in the MLS, has a chance to change that distinction in Tuesday night’s match between Argentina and Brazil at the iconic Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.

Argentina is fresh off its first loss in nearly a year, after falling 2-0 to Uruguay last Thursday. And Messi has not scored in his last three matches.

But Argentina won’t take a shorthanded Brazilian national team for granted. The Brazilians will be without stars Neymar (ACL tear), Vinícius Júnior (hamstring) and Casemiro (hamstring) in Tuesday night’s game.

“They have significant absences, but if you look at the team, they are all top level,” Argentine coach Luis Scaloni said during a press conference on Monday. “They have great players that are up to the task and it is Brazil, everyone knows what it means.”

News Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo could take the pitch together next year was met with worldwide excitement, but Inter Miami has refuted a Tuesday announcement it will play in Saudi Arabia.

“Earlier today, an announcement was issued stating that Inter Miami CF is scheduled to play in the Riyadh Season Cup. This is inaccurate,” Inter Miami said in a statement.

It was announced Messi and Inter Miami would face Ronaldo and Al-Nassr in Saudi Arabia in February.

Here’s more on the Messi, Ronaldo news from Tuesday.

Messi will play in what could be his final match at the iconic Brazilian stadium, looking to score his first qualifying goal against Brazil, in a venue that has provided both heartbreak and joy for soccer’s biggest star.

Messi suffered one of the most crushing losses of his career, the 2014 World Cup final against Germany at the Marcana Stadium. He also led Argentina to the Copa America crown in 2021, his first national team title, in the same stadium.

Messi is in the twilight of his standout career, riding the high of his World Cup win with Argentina from last December with MLS side Inter Miami, and competing with his national team for qualifying matches this fall.

This is Messi’s last match for 2023

It’s been an action packed 2023 for Leo Messi.

The Argentine legend started the year celebrating his World Cup victory in Qatar last December, then ended his turbulent run with Paris Saint-Germain and joined Inter Miami in Major League Soccer.

Messi had his offseason planned for at least a month. He plans to vacation in Argentina, he said in an interview after scoring two goals against Peru last month.

“It’ll be the first time in a while that I spend a lot of days here in December during the holidays in peace with my people,” Messi said. “And in January I’ll be back, I’ll do a preseason starting from zero and prepare myself the best I can, as always.”

Messi, Argentina lose first game since World Cup last week

Messi and Argentina lost 2-0 to Uruguay last Thursday, its first loss since the World Cup in Qatar last December.

It was Argentina’s first loss in nearly a year, since falling 2-1 to Saudi Arabia in their World Cup opener on Nov. 22, 2022.

Argentina had not relinquished a goal to their opponents in eight matches – four friendlies and four qualifying matches – since their thrilling victory over France in the final.

Argentine goalie Emiliano Martínez’s impressive shutout streak of 751 minutes ended during the match.

Messi has not scored in his last three matches

Messi has been scoreless in his last three matches, after scoring in the 32nd and 42nd minutes in Argentina’s 2-0 win over Peru on Oct. 17.

Messi did not score in Inter Miami’s season finale against Charlotte FC on Oct. 21, or in Inter Miami’s friendly against New York City FC to honor his eighth Ballon d’Or on Nov. 10.

He also did not score in Argentina’s loss to Uruguay last Thursday.

What are the CONMEBOL Standings?

Argentina still leads South American qualifying, while Brazil is in the middle of the pack.

Argentina leads the 10-team group with 12 points in five matches. Uruguay is second with 10 points. Colombia has nine and Venezuela eight. Brazil has seven points. Ecuador, Paraguay and Chile have five points each. Bolivia has three and Peru has one point.


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