Football: Argentina coach Sampaoli says 'wise' to exclude Messi and Higuain against Singapore

The official training session for the Argentina Football Team at the Singapore Sports Hub, on June 12, 2017.
The official training session for the Argentina Football Team at the Singapore Sports Hub, on June 12, 2017. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE - Argentina national football coach Jorge Sampaoli felt that it was a wise decision to excuse Lionel Messi from Tuesday's (Jan 13) friendly match against hosts Singapore at the National Stadium.

Sampaoli said at the pre-match press conference on Monday (Jan 12): "Basically, they were carrying over a lot of games, so I think it's a wise decision to let them go, for this game," said Sampaoli via a translator. "It would have been too risky for the Argentina team."

As the rest of Messi's team-mates are gearing up for the game, the five-time Player of the Year posted a photo of himself holidaying with his family at Ibiza, together with his Barcelona team-mate Luis Suarez and Chelsea's Cesc Fabregas and their families.

Messi and Gonzalo Higuain featured last Friday in their 1-0 defeat of Brazil in a friendly match in Melbourne.

Messi touched down in Singapore on Saturday evening with the rest of the squad from Australia but flew off five hours later for Barcelona, without signing any autographs for fans. Higuain did not follow the squad to Singapore.

Despite the absence of top names like Messi and Higuain, Singapore fans can expect to see Juventus' forward Paulo Dybala and Paris Saint-Germain's Angel di Maria in action.


Said Sampaoli: "Due to the big difference between the two teams, this is an opportunity for us to (experiment) our ideas, where we will hopefully enjoy (using) the great attacking power of the Argentina.

"We have many attackers and it's an opportunity to see how they play with the defenders in the team, and it's important to see how fast they recover after they lose the ball."

Yet he refuses to underestimate the hosts, as he is aware that V. Sundram Moorthy's Lions will be bringing their top game against a world-class team in front of an estimated 20,000 fans.

Sampaoli said: "I disagree with the statement that we will win for sure. After our preparation game against Brazil, we are playing a difficult game against Singapore.

"I'm expecting to have a team (Singapore) in front that are taking advantage of the opportunity to really play against Argentina."