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SPORTS | 05-10-2021 17:15

Messi & co arrive in Argentina for World Cup triple header

Albiceleste captain Lionel Messi and his teammates arrived in Buenos Aires on Tuesday, as Argentina's national team prepares for a World Cup qualifying triple header.

Albiceleste captain Lionel Messi and his teammates arrived in Buenos Aires on Tuesday, as Argentina's national team prepares for a World Cup qualifying triple header.

The team has three Qatar 2022 qualifiers lined up – matches against Paraguay, Uruguay and Peru.

Messi arrived at Ezeiza international airport on Tuesday morning via private jet with his Paris St Germain teammates Ángel Di María and Leandro Paredes, who both made coach Lionel Scaloni's squad.

With 18 points, Argentina ranks second in the South American qualifying league table, behind Brazil on 24. 

The players had their first training session on Tuesday at the Argentine Football Association;s (AFA) headquarters on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. Another schedule is planned for tomorrow morning, before the squad departs for Asunción, ahead of the clash with sixth-placed Paraguay on Thursday night at the Defensores del Chaco stadium.

After the match, the side will travel back to Buenos Aires ahead of Sunday night's rescheduled match with Uruguay at River Plate's El Monumental stadium, which will also play host to next Thursday's game against Peru. 

"I am a bit anxious about these matches because it is an important period," admitted Scaloni on Tuesday.

One of the coach's concerns is the tight schedule, something he considered "atypical" and leaves little time for recovery and training.

"Being three games it changes things a bit, especially from the first to the second," he said.

"The big 'problem,' in quotes, is the second [against Uruguay] where there is a load of one game and you have to prepare for the other without stopping thinking about the third as well."

"It is something new for us, we hope to face it in the best way. We have a large squad and that means that we can count on everyone," said the coach.

That only one fixture is away is a piece of good news.

"Luckily in this one we do not have long periods of travel," Scaloni said.

Regarding the players' condition, the coach is satisfied. "We are fine, we have a base. Those called up in 80 or 90 percent [of squads] are always the same and that gives you peace of mind even if you have little time to work," he added.

"You can always improve – we are not invincible," he stressed.

Argentina's squad looks strong, though the side is missing Sergio Agüero (FC Barcelona) and Paulo Dybala (Juventus), who are both injured.

"I would have liked to have Paulo and Sergio," admitted Scaloni, but "we have other boys who are not only to replace them but even play the same or better."

The matches will be taking place amid a sharp decrease in Covid-19 cases, which has allowed the government to approve the return of spectators to stadiums. Last week's round of domestic fixtures – which included a River-Boca Superclásico – was the first in 18 months to take place before fans, though caps on attendance were broken. 

The same conditions will be in place for the upcoming matches in Argentina. Tickets for the clash with Uruguay sold out in just four hours on Monday.

– TIMES/AFP

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