Football: Messi among seven forwards on Argentina list against Singapore

Lionel Messi leading Argentina out for the World Cup qualifier against Chile on March 23. Messi, who scored the only goal of the match, is at the centre of the strategy being formulated by national coach V. Sundramoorthy for the friendly on June 13.
Lionel Messi leading Argentina out for the World Cup qualifier against Chile on March 23. Messi, who scored the only goal of the match, is at the centre of the strategy being formulated by national coach V. Sundramoorthy for the friendly on June 13.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Three years ago, Neymar scored all four goals as Brazil routed Japan 4-0 in a friendly. And 43 years ago, Pele illuminated the arena with his presence as he conducted a coaching clinic at the Kallang venue.

Next month, Lionel Messi will be the main attraction at the National Stadium in a game against the Lions on one of the rare occasions when Singaporeans get an close-up glimpse of a world-class footballer.

World No. 2 Argentina yesterday announced a 20-man squad for its tour of the Republic and Australia. It will play old rivals Brazil in Melbourne on June 9 before facing Singapore, ranked 160th, four days later.

Apart from the Barcelona superstar, the Albiceleste called up six other forwards, including Angel Di Maria and Juventus duo Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala in a squad brimming with firepower. Manchester City's striker Sergio Aguero and right-back Pablo Zabaleta were notable absentees.

For national coach V. Sundramoorthy, the friendly will be one for his players and the fans to savour.

"Our players would be lying if they said they don't want to play Argentina," he told The Sunday Times. "Similarly, I want to pit my skills against a top-quality team. To compete against such world-class players will be a big honour for me and our players.

"We will be ready with a game plan and holding out the first 45 minutes will be crucial. After that, perhaps the (hot and humid) weather will take a toll on them (Argentina)."

  • ARGENTINA SQUAD FOR TOUR OF AUSTRALIA-SINGAPORE

    GOALKEEPERS

    • Sergio Romero (Manchester United) • Nahuel Guzman (UANL, Mexico) • Geronimo Rulli (Real Sociedad)

    DEFENDERS

    • Javier Mascherano (Barcelona) • Emanuel Mammana (Lyon) • Nicolas Otamendi (Manchester City) • Gabriel Mercado (Sevilla)

    MIDFIELDERS

    • Eduardo Salvio (Benfica) • Lucas Biglia (Lazio) • Ever Banega (Inter Milan) • Manuel Lanzini (West Ham) • Leandro Paredes (Roma) • Guido Rodriguez (Tijuana, Mexico)

    FORWARDS

    • Lionel Messi (Barcelona) • Joaquin Correa (Sevilla) • Alejandro Gomez (Atalanta) • Mauro Icardi (Inter Milan) • Angel Di Maria (Paris Saint-Germain) • Paulo Dybala • Gonzalo Higuain (Juventus)

Football fans like Darius Loh were hopeful Messi would get a run out. The 30-year-old sales manager said: "I don't expect Messi to play the full 90 minutes but he should get some game time... and hopefully produce some of his solo dribbles to light up the crowd, who are mostly there to see him."

Sundram is busy formulating a game plan to shackle Messi. He said: "Messi is a special player who is one of the greats. But I hope our players will show up too. We need to close him down as soon as possible.

"Hariss (Harun) or Safuwan (Baharudin) could man-mark Messi and guys like Izzdin (Shafiq) need to cut out the passes to him."

The friendly against Argentina will cap a busy week at home for the Lions. They will spar with Myanmar in a home friendly on June 6 and play an Asian Cup qualifier against Chinese Taipei on June 10 before facing Messi and his team-mates three days later.

Sundram is urging his players to go all out in each. He said: "The match against Argentina will be one to remember but let's not forget that it is just as important to get all three points against Chinese Taipei."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 21, 2017, with the headline 'Messi among 7 forwards on Argentina list against S'pore'. Print Edition | Subscribe