Messi key but Pavon shows his worth too

Captain Lionel Messi, who scored a hat-trick, evading a tackle by Haiti's Bryan Alceus in Argentina's 4-0 friendly win at home. Coach Jorge Sampaoli was pleased with contributions from substitutes Cristian Pavon and Sergio Aguero.
Captain Lionel Messi, who scored a hat-trick, evading a tackle by Haiti's Bryan Alceus in Argentina's 4-0 friendly win at home. Coach Jorge Sampaoli was pleased with contributions from substitutes Cristian Pavon and Sergio Aguero.PHOTO: REUTERS

SAO PAULO • Just days after former winger Claudio Caniggia urged Argentina not to be a one-man team, they proved once again how reliant they are on Lionel Messi as the Barcelona striker scored a hat-trick in their 4-0 World Cup warm-up win over Haiti on Tuesday.

But the Albiceleste did show that they have other options, with coach Jorge Sampaoli praising substitute Cristian Pavon for linking up well with their talisman Messi. The 22-year-old Boca Juniors forward was crucial in setting up Messi's third before Sergio Aguero scored Argentina's fourth.

"Cristian is a player who has very special characteristics for communicating with Messi," Sampaoli said.

"He goes to space, he is offering all the time and he has an important dynamic. Aguero and Pavon came on from the bench very well.

"Haiti didn't have so many players behind the ball and that boosted their chances."

Following the match, Messi was quoted by the Argentine Football Association's website as saying: "I have no doubt that we are going to grow. We have time.

"The World Cup is our dream, the dream of the country. We're going to leave everything in the World Cup."

Another South American side, Peru, who will be going to next month's World Cup for the first time in 36 years, also impressed with a 2-0 friendly win over Scotland in Lima.

Christian Cueva put Peru 1-0 ahead after 36 minutes from the penalty spot before Jefferson Farfan took advantage of slack defending just seconds after the break to complete the scoring.

The victory was Peru's third in a row against European opposition following friendly wins over Croatia and Iceland, and fills them with optimism as they head to Russia. "Peru is ready to face any team in the world," coach Ricardo Gareca told reporters.

Argentina play Israel before heading to Russia and Peru face fellow finalists Saudi Arabia and Sweden.

Across the globe, new Japan coach Akira Nishino, who replaced sacked predecessor Vahid Halilhodzic last month, suffered a 2-0 defeat by Ghana in Yokohama yesterday in his first game in charge.

Thomas Partey and Emmanuel Boateng netted for Ghana, who did not qualify for Russia.

Japan will play two more friendlies - against Switzerland and Paraguay.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 31, 2018, with the headline 'Messi key but Pavon shows his worth too'. Print Edition | Subscribe