Lionel Scaloni criticised the state of the pitch in Salvador after Argentina's 2-0 loss to Colombia in their Copa America opener.

Roger Martinez's stunner and a late Duvan Zapata goal saw Colombia to victory in the Group B clash at Itaipava Arena Fonte Nova on Saturday.

However, head coach Scaloni was unhappy with the pitch on which his side slumped to a disappointing defeat.

"I think it was a shame the condition of the pitch, considering this is just the first game here," he told a news conference.

"I don't want to know how this pitch would be after two or three games. This could've been a lot better for a first game, for these kinds of players.

"I think it is a shame."

Argentina struggled to create chances against Colombia, losing their Copa opener for the first time since 1979.

Scaloni, whose team take on Paraguay in Belo Horizonte on Wednesday, was upbeat about Argentina's second-half display.

"I think they [Colombia] are a good team. They are really focused on what matters," he said.

"The most important thing is I think we faced them well, they were better at some times, some times we were better.

"But those are just cycles within the game and we need to adapt to them. We were good, even with that goal from them on the counter-attack, especially in the second half."

Lionel Messi said he was "feeling bitter" after Colombia heaped agony on Copa America hopefuls Argentina in Salvador.

Argentina – back-to-back runners-up in 2015 and 2016 – were upstaged 2-0 by Colombia in their Copa opener on Saturday.

After a drab first half, Argentina were stunned as Colombia substitutes Roger Martinez and Duvan Zapata condemned La Albiceleste to their first opening-game Copa defeat since 1979.

And Argentina captain Messi – who was largely subdued by Carlos Queiroz's men as he eyes his first senior title with the South American giants – lamented the result.

"We leave here feeling bitter," Messi told reporters afterwards. "In the second half we had our chances.

"It takes time to accept this defeat, but let's see what the next days will be like. We need to look at the horizon and move on.

"We didn't want to start this way, obviously, but now we have to lift our heads and keep going."

"In the first half we retreated a little and were holding on, but in the second we really opened up," said Messi, who almost broke the deadlock in the second half but directed a header just wide of the post.

"Whenever you lose it's hard for us, we usually take it badly. Now we have to think about Paraguay."

Messi continued: "We have to take the positive things of today and think about tomorrow. We have many chances."

Argentina – seeking their first major international title since 1993 – are back in action against Paraguay on Wednesday in Group B.

Colombia heaped misery on Lionel Messi and Argentina with a 2-0 victory in their Copa America opener on Saturday.

Runners-up in 2015 and 2016, Messi's Argentina were looking to banish their past demons in pursuit of a first major international title since 1993.

However, Argentina were upstaged by Colombia, who made a winning start in Group B thanks to Roger Martinez's 71st-minute stunner and Duvan Zapata's late sealer.

As Argentina pressed and probed, first-half substitute Martinez sent a thunderous strike past Franco Armani in Salvador and Zapata made sure of the win during the closing stages.

Argentina came into the tournament off a 5-1 rout of Nicaragua and with the most Copa victories in history (119) but the South American giants did not look like winning against Colombia.

Martinez – a replacement for Luis Muriel in the 14th minute – linked up with Radamel Falcao but his shot deflected just wide of the post as Colombia appeared the more likely to strike first.

Overall, it was a forgettable opening 45 minutes, which did not see a single shot on target from either team, with Messi subdued.

It was more of the same in the second half, though Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina was finally called into action after a vicious volley from Leandro Paredes approaching the hour mark.

The match did come to life moments later when Juan Cuadrado's tackle on Messi threatened to spark a melee as Argentina players rushed in to confront the Colombia winger.

That triggered Argentina, who almost took the lead after Nicolas Otamendi's powerful header forced Ospina into a low diving save, while Messi was unable to head home the rebound with the goal at his mercy.

But Colombia broke the deadlock with 19 minutes remaining – Martinez collecting the ball on the flank and drifting inside before beating Armani from distance – and fellow substitute Zapata doubled the lead four minutes from the end courtesy of an emphatic close-range finish.

What does it mean? Long road ahead for Scaloni

In the build-up to the match, head coach Lionel Scaloni joked he would retire if Argentina win the Copa America. Scaloni does not appear any closer to retirement based on Saturday's result and performance. After last year's World Cup last-16 exit and Messi's brief international absence, the South American giants have a lot of work ahead.

Martinez makes himself a hero

When Muriel went down with an injury early in the first half, Carlos Queiroz turned to Martinez. And as Falcao struggled to make an impact on proceedings, 24-year-old America forward Martinez emerged a hero with his first international goal since 2016.

Pressure builds on Messi and Co.

The weight of a nation falls on Messi's shoulders and the captain was helpless to prevent another poor result on the international stage. Still searching for his first senior title with Argentina, Messi was relatively subdued in the team's first game.

What's next?

Argentina meet Paraguay on Wednesday, while Colombia face guests and 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar.

Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni joked he will retire if La Albiceleste win the Copa America in Brazil.

Argentina – runners-up in the past two editions – open their Copa campaign against Colombia in Salvador on Saturday.

La Albiceleste, who lost to Chile in 2015 and 2016, also suffered a last-16 World Cup exit at the hands of France last year.

Argentina's elimination led to Jorge Sampaoli's departure and Lionel Messi's brief international retirement before the five-time Ballon d'Or winner's return ahead of the Copa.

The South American giants have not won a major international tournament since lifting the Copa America in 1993 and previewing their Group B opener, Scaloni joked: "If we win the Copa America, I will retire." 

"This team reached two Copa America finals," Scaloni added. "It's important to think about it and know that it's very difficult to reach there and nothing was won. It will be very difficult and complicated.

"We are here to play all the matches and to show that these players can play with this shirt."

Messi, once again, is carrying the hopes of a nation on his shoulders as Argentina look to banish the demons of 2015 and 2016, and the 2014 World Cup final.

The Argentina captain and country's all-time leading scorer has never won a senior trophy with La Albiceleste but Scaloni hailed Messi's desire.

"I want to emphasise his enthusiasm to play football. He was born to play football, he was born to win," Scaloni said. "We are impressed by his enthusiasm and the fact he is here sharing that desire to win with us makes us enormously happy."

Argentina team-mate Nicolas Tagliafico added: "I am lucky enough to have been in the same team as Messi before and his desire is what impresses me the most.

"He keeps wanting to come back and keep trying, it's incredible. He is the same as he was at the World Cup, he is calm, relaxed and has the same desire as ever."

Lionel Messi's hopes of matching Cristiano Ronaldo's feat of winning major silverware with his country will be put to the test again when Argentina kick-off their Copa America campaign against Colombia.

La Albiceleste have been runners-up at four of the last five editions of the tournament and Messi temporarily stood down from international duty after their penalty shoot-out loss to Chile in 2016.

But the Barcelona star – who has seen rival Ronaldo claim two titles with Portugal at the European Champonship and Nations League – is back once again to lead the line at the CONMEBOL event for Lionel Scaloni's side, who are also set to face Paraguay and Qatar in Group B.

First up is a clash against Colombia in Salvador, with Argentina – who also boast the likes of Sergio Aguero and Paulo Dybala – unbeaten against Saturday's opponents since 2007.

That is not a record Radamel Falcao is unduly concerned by, as Colombia's all-time top scorer prepares for what could be his final Copa America. 

"I'm treating it as if that were the case," he said of his potential farewell to the tournament. "It's a good way to try to get the best out of myself.

"We are aware that we haven't won against [Argentina] in a long time, but we have to keep fighting. I think we're closer.

"We must be attentive to the finer details, stay focused and play the way that we have been training.

"In these types of matches the little things can make a big difference."

Colombia coach Carlos Queiroz will be seeking to secure the nation's first title at the competition since they were hosts in 2001.

The former Real Madrid boss has overseen three wins from four matches in charge, including a 3-0 victory over Peru in their final warm-up game.

Argentina were even more convincing winners as they closed out their preparations with a 5-1 thrashing of Nicaragua, Messi scoring two first-half goals before being withdrawn at the break.

The two nations last met in a friendly last September that ended goalless, marking the fifth match in a row in which Colombia had drawn a blank against Argentina.

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Argentina – Lionel Messi

He may be the obvious choice, but Messi is the man who has carried the hopes of a nation for an international career that has thus far yielded preciously little joy.

Previous Copa America failings have hit the diminutive forward hard and, at a tournament during which he will turn 32, the pressure is on for Messi to star in a trophy-winning campaign. 

Colombia – Duvan Zapata

After enjoying a prolific campaign on loan with Atalanta, scoring 23 Serie A goals, Zapata may have forced himself into starting contention.

He came off the bench to score his first international goal in the win over Peru, but the man he replaced – Falcao ​– is likely to be preferred this weekend.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Argentina are unbeaten in their last eight meetings with Colombia in all competitions (W4 D4) – their longest unbeaten run against them.
- These two nations have met 13 times in the Copa America, with seven wins for Argentina and two for Colombia.
- Argentina have won the most games (119) and have the highest goal difference (+282) in Copa America history.
- In four of the last five Copa America tournaments Argentina have finished as runners-up, with each of the last two coming in penalty shoot-out defeats in the final (versus Chile in 2015 and 2016).
- Colombia finished third in 2016; they were defeated 2-0 by eventual champions Chile in the semi-finals and went on to beat hosts USA 1-0 in the 3rd place play-off thanks to a Carlos Bacca winner.
- Argentina have progressed from the Copa America group stage in each of their last 12 appearances.

Many of the world's best players will be on show in Brazil over the next few weeks for the 2019 edition of the Copa America, but there will also be some talents hoping to use the tournament as a springboard.

For every Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Luis Suarez and James Rodriguez there will be a less familiar name attempting to establish himself on the international stage, potentially earning a big move.

The tournament sees the traditional CONMEBOL nations take part, plus guests Qatar and Japan, the latter of whom have named a squad mostly made up of players likely to feature in next year's Olympics.

With the Copa America starting on Friday, we have spoken to the experts to identify one potential breakout star to watch for each nation.

 

GROUP A

Brazil - David Neres (Ajax)

Tom Webber (Brazilian football expert): Following a stellar season with Champions League semi-finalists Ajax, Neres has a great chance to make his mark on the international stage. The 22-year-old winger is expected to be handed a starting role following Neymar's injury-enforced withdrawal, despite only making his first start in the 7-0 demolition of Honduras on June 9. Neres scored 12 goals and supplied 11 assists in all competitions for Ajax in 2018-19 and appears primed to make a mark on the Copa America, with plenty of interested parties likely to be keeping a close eye on him.

Bolivia - Edwin Saavedra (Bolivar)

Andres Mendez Dott (Bolivian football expert): Saavedra is a direct and explosive midfielder who started his career as right-back but now plays further forward. At the age of 23, he is closing in on 200 appearances for Bolivar and had a short spell at Brazilian side Goias. Humble off the pitch, he is rather more audacious on it, as he is not afraid to shoot from distance or take on defenders. Coach Eduardo Villegas is still undecided about his starting midfield, but we can expect Saaverdra to be a part of it. There are some rumours he might be deployed on the left, but either way, if he gets the ball and some space, you can count on him testing Dani Alves or Filipe Luis against Brazil. The Copa will be very challenging for Bolivia, but Saavedra could make his mark.

Peru - Renato Tapia (Willem II, on loan from Feyenoord)

Diego Montalvan (Peruvian sports journalist): If there's one player to watch in the Peru side, it's 23-year-old Renato Tapia, coming off arguably his best season in Europe with Willem II. The tournament will also enable him to put himself in the shop window, as he is reportedly looking for a transfer away from parent club Feyenoord. A central midfielder who can also fill in defensively, for Peru Tapia generally plays the role of destroyer to Yoshimar Yotun's creator, but if given the freedom to move forward he can create and even chip in with a few 'golazos'. 'El capitan del futuro', as he is called by many in Peru, is already an undisputed starter, but if he wants to stay in Europe he will have a point to prove in Brazil.

Venezuela - Wuilker Farinez (Millonarios)

Daniel Alvarez Montes (Venezuelan sports journalist): Farinez was part of the Venezuela squad in Chile for the 2015 Copa America when he was just 17. Many criticised then-coach Noel Sanvicente for that decision, knowing Farinez was not going to play. However, Sanvicente insisted it was a great opportunity for Farinez to grow. Four years later, we can say that decision was arguably his best one while in charge of La Vinotinto. Farinez played a significant role for Venezuela's youth sides after that, making a huge impact in tournaments at several age levels. Currently playing for Millonarios in Colombia, the Copa America will be a massive opportunity for him to show the world what he is capable of. Europe could be his next stop, with Benfica front-runners to acquire him.

GROUP B

Argentina - Giovani Lo Celso (Real Betis)

Peter Coates (Buenos Aires-based football writer): Finding a balance in midfield, linking defence to attack and crucially providing a partner for Lionel Messi have been issues for Argentina for several years. A new-look squad for the Copa America sees much of that responsibility fall on the shoulders of Lo Celso and coach Lionel Scaloni has already spoken highly of the 23-year-old, hoping the Real Betis playmaker and the world's best player can reproduce a relationship he has already witnessed on the training field. Something akin to an old-fashioned 'enganche' of yesteryear, Lo Celso will operate in the spaces behind the striker and allow Messi to roam off the right with his usual menace. The Rosario Central product's eye for a pass, ability to work in tight spaces and sweet left foot could make him the ideal partner for Messi and crucial to La Albiceleste's success.

 

Paraguay - Matias Rojas (Defensa y Justicia)

Roberto Rojas (Paraguayan journalist): Rojas is expected to be La Albirroja's breakout player in this Copa America. A product of the esteemed Cerro Porteno academy, the 23-year-old followed the path of various Paraguayans looking to get their first break abroad by heading to Argentina, where he was initially loaned to Lanus in 2017, before joining modest Defensa y Justicia the following year. He became a key player for Sebastian Beccacece's team, who secured an historic second-place finish in the 2018-19 Superliga. A central midfielder known for his passing and dangerous set-pieces, Rojas has already signed a contract to join Racing Club, who finished just ahead of Defensa y Justicia. Paraguay manager Eduardo Berizzo is likely to play Rojas in a 4-3-3 formation, where he will be expected to combine with Newcastle United's Miguel Almiron as the team's two-man creative hub.

Qatar - Almoez Ali (Al-Duhail)

Martin Lowe (Asian football expert): Ali went from relative obscurity to the name on everyone's lips at the Asian Cup, finishing as the highest-scoring player and breaking Ali Daei's record with nine goals from seven matches as Qatar claimed a surprise success. A languid target man with strength and the eye for a goal, he threatens from even the trickiest situations and cemented his MVP status at the Asian Cup with an outrageous bicycle kick in the final. Ali – born in Sudan – remains a contentious case amid questions over his eligibility, but he has been allowed to continue representing Qatar. He blossomed in a number of international youth teams, tending to fill his boots whenever he got the opportunity. His all-round game has improved, having been shifted out wide for his club side Al-Duhail, but he is mostly used as a static focal point with more creative types such as Akram Afif and Hassan Al-Haydos playing off him.

Colombia - Luis Diaz (Junior)

Simon Edwards (South American football writer): Diaz is a hugely exciting winger who will be tasked with bringing fresh impetus to Colombia off the bench. He was spotted by Carlos Valderrama and 'El Pibe' recommended Junior snap him up. He has become a star of Colombian league football, with offers received from River Plate and Cardiff City. Diaz plays with the fearless enthusiasm and the joy of a child, but has also complimented his unpredictable, weaving dribbles with goals and improved defensive discipline. He is now a complete attacking midfielder who tracks back and provides a threat. Diaz draws defenders but has the skill and invention to craft a solution. 'Luchito' will take risks and lose possession occasionally, but he also has the quality, pace and confidence to have a huge impact for this Colombia side.

GROUP C

Chile - Erick Pulgar (Bologna)

Adam Brandon (Chile-based South American football writer): Erick Pulgar will probably be given a chance to shine in central midfield in the Copa America after his stellar season with Bologna in Italy. The 25-year-old is good on the ball, passes well and can play a more defensive role as well. He also boasts an excellent penalty record, which could come in handy for Chile again in this Copa America, given how the 2015 and 2016 finals were won.

Japan - Takefusa Kubo (FC Tokyo)

Stuart Smith (Japan-based football writer): Japanese fans will line up to tell you 18-year-old attacker Takefusa Kubo, currently with FC Tokyo but almost certainly headed to a big European club very soon, is the Samurai Blue's player to watch. Small, fleet-footed and not afraid to try tricks, he has shown a maturity beyond his years this season in the J.League. He spent his formative years at Barcelona's famed La Masia, and his technical ability is a testament to that period. Excellent with both feet, extremely skilful and able to spot and drift into spaces that other players cannot, Kubo has the potential to develop into an outstanding player. Coach Hajime Moriyasu will try to manage expectations, but it will be difficult to keep such a talented player off the pitch for too long.

Ecuador - Jhegson Sebastian Mendez (Orlando City)

Xavier Zavala (Ecuadorian football analyst): Coach Hernan Dario Gomez will implement a defensive approach that will appeal to Mendez's greatest strengths, which are his tackling efficiency and relentless motor. The 22-year-old midfielder has shown he is capable of man marking without being rash or overly aggressive and his position with Ecuador will be similar to at Orlando City, where he plays a deep-lying role. The challenge he has is dislodging the Liga de Quito partnership of Jefferson Orejuela and Jefferson Intriago, but given the stamina the system used by 'El Bolillo' requires, rotation is to be expected. Once Mendez gets his chance, he will be in a position to prove his worth.

Uruguay - Nahitan Nandez (Boca Juniors)

Nick Dorrington (freelance South American football journalist): Nandez is an all-action midfielder who has become a regular for Uruguay over the last year or so, usually playing off the right-hand side. A boundlessly energetic little terrier of a player, he snaps away at the heels of opponents, runs up and down and back again, and gets the ball forward quickly. He is also capable of moments of genuine quality, such as the ball he played through to release Dario Benedetto for Boca Juniors' goal in their Copa Libertadores final defeat to River Plate in December. Linked with a move to Europe, the Copa America could be a useful shop window for the 23-year-old.

Brazil will be under pressure to erase memories of the 2014 World Cup by winning this year's Copa America on home soil, while Lionel Messi and Argentina have a score of their own to settle following disappointment in Russia 12 months ago.

On one of Brazilian football's darkest days, the Selecao were humiliatingly crushed 7-1 by Germany as hosts in the 2014 World Cup semi-finals and they fell a stage earlier in Russia last year.

Argentina were even more underwhelming at the 2018 World Cup than their rivals, finding themselves eliminated in the last 16, with their performances resulting in a major overhaul of the coaching staff and squad.

An ageing Chile will do well to win a third successive title, but both of the favourites have plenty of baggage heading into the tournament.

Can Messi end Argentina's long wait?

Messi's lack of success on the international stage is well-documented and routinely used as a stick to beat him with in the never-ending "greatest player of all time" debate.

"I want to end my career having won something with the national team, or at least try to do so as many times as possible," Messi said to Fox Sports in a recent interview.

He cannot be accused of not trying, having helped his country to four major finals. The past two were in the most recent Copa America editions, losing on penalties to Chile both times.

Argentina have not won a Copa America since 1993, and Messi, 32, is running out of time to be the one who brings them international success again.

Brazil without their poster boy

A big boost to Argentina's chances was the news Brazil talisman Neymar will miss the tournament with an ankle injury, a massive blow for the hosts and favourites.

Nevertheless, such a situation opens the door to others to impress, and in Richarlison, Everton and David Neres, Tite has plenty of options at his disposal.

But Neymar's injury – however crucial in the long run – will not be a valid excuse if Brazil fail again on home soil as they did at the World Cup in 2014.

The pressure is on and the likes of Philippe Coutinho will be expected to carry Brazil to success.

Low expectations for the holders

Back-to-back champions Chile will be under significantly less pressure, however, despite their recent successes in the Copa America.

Coach Reinaldo Rueda has plenty of experience at his disposal, with six centurions in the squad and 11 players who are aged 30 or older.

But there is a startling lack of young talent coming through in Chile presently, with 24-year-old defender Paulo Diaz the youngest outfield player in the selection.

In previous editions such issues might have been ignored given the qualities of Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sanchez, but neither – particularly the latter – are what they once were.

Guest nations out to spoil the party

CONMEBOL has regularly invited guest nations to participate in their showpiece tournament, but for only the second time there will be representatives from countries outside of the Americas playing.

Japan – who also featured in 1999 – and 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar will take their respective places in Group C and Group B, hoping to cause something of an upset.

Qatar won their first Asian Cup title earlier this year and Almoez Ali will be key to their chances of making it out of the group.

Expectations are rather more modest for Japan, however, as coach Hajime Moriyasu has taken a squad mostly made up of players who will be eligible to feature at next year's Olympics.

Lionel Messi was the hero again as Argentina wrapped up their Copa America preparations with a 5-1 rout of minnows Nicaragua.

Messi scored two goals in two minutes to lead Argentina past Nicaragua on Friday before Lionel Scaloni's men fly out to Brazil for the Copa America.

Having ended his international absence in March's shock loss to Venezuela, Messi opened the scoring with a stunning solo effort in the 37th minute.

After dancing his way past three defenders for the opener, Messi rebounded a Sergio Aguero shot just seconds later to take his international tally to 67 goals.

Lautaro Martinez came off the bench and scored a second-half brace against the Central American visitors, while Roberto Pereyra added a fifth late on before Nicaragua's Juan Barrera converted a 91st-minute penalty to put a blemish on Argentina's performance.

Argentina dominated from the outset, though Nicaragua proved dogged opposition in San Juan, where Messi was in the thick of the action.

Aguero – earning his 90th cap – almost slid in to break the deadlock before Messi wasted a golden chance in the 12th minute after receiving a lofted ball from Giovani Lo Celso, only to fail to make proper contact from close range.

Matias Suarez then struck the post approaching the half-hour mark, though the home side eventually got their goal thanks to Messi's brilliance.

Messi weaved and shimmied three defenders before firing low past Nicaragua goalkeeper Justo Lorente into the net.

Nicaragua were barely able to recover as Messi converted a rebound after Lorente could only parry Aguero's shot in the Barcelona superstar's path.

That proved to be Messi and Aguero's final contributions – the pair making way for Paulo Dybala and Martinez.

And Inter's Martinez sealed the victory by curling a shot into the bottom corner of the net with 27 minutes remaining, before firing home a fourth from close range 10 minutes later.

Fellow substitute Pereyra then drifted in at the back post and tapped in for the simplest of goals during the final nine minutes, however, Nicaragua spoiled Argentina's clean sheet via a stoppage-time penalty after a Nicolas Otamendi handball.

 

What does it mean? Argentina ready for Copa America

Or as ready as they can be. Scaloni has tried to expose as much international football to his players as possible. Runners-up in 2015 and 2016, Argentina head into the major South American tournament with back-to-back wins and four in five.

Messi magic masterminds another win

A 45-minute appearance was enough for Messi to inspire Argentina at Estadio San Juan del Bicentenario. Fresh off winning a sixth European Golden Shoe following 36 LaLiga goals, Messi's quick-fire brace set the tone for Argentina. The 31-year-old was lively throughout, trying to create in the opening half.

Argentina hardly tested

With James Rodriguez and Colombia waiting next, Scaloni perhaps may have wanted a greater test, especially for his defenders. Franco Armani had little to do between the sticks, except for picking the ball out of the back of the net after Otamendi was penalised for handball at the death.

What's next?

Argentina will open their Copa America campaign against Colombia in Salvador on June 15, while Nicaragua face co-hosts Costa Rica in their CONCACAF Gold Cup opener a day later.

Lionel Scaloni hopes Lionel Messi can just produce "what he does every Sunday" as Argentina target success at the Copa America.

Argentina will face Nicaragua on Friday in their final friendly before their Copa campaign begins against Colombia on June 15.

Messi is still bidding to win his first senior title with Argentina, and his performances for the national team have often been criticised.

Scaloni believes his nation can be successful as a team, if Messi can deliver what he does regularly for Barcelona.

"If we have a good performance as a team and, in addition, Messi does what he does every Sunday, we will surely do well," he told a news conference on Thursday.

Scaloni named Messi, Manchester City star Sergio Aguero and River Plate forward Matias Suarez to lead his attack against Nicaragua.

The former Argentina international hailed his side's attacking talent, saying: "We know we have pure dynamite up there.

"So, if we are solid, we will have many possibilities."

Real Madrid have been urged to sign one of Lionel Messi's children by Alvaro Arbeloa after the Barcelona superstar revealed his son Mateo cheers for their LaLiga rivals.

Messi claimed another LaLiga title this season but Champions League and Copa del Rey defeats to Liverpool and Valencia respectively has seen the five-time Ballon d'Or winner ruthlessly trolled by his own son.

"Thiago never misses a match," Lionel Messi told TyC Sports. "Mateo loves football, he wears all the shirts.

"We were playing at home and he said to me, 'I'm Liverpool, who beat you'; 'Valencia won, eh - I'm Valencia'.

"The TV is there, and he cheers Madrid's goals to annoy his brother. He's the one who is a Madrid fan."

Messi's comments caught the attention of former Madrid full-back Arbeloa, who won LaLiga and two Champions League trophies during his time at the Santiago Bernabeu.

"Let's get him [Mateo] signed," ex-Spain international and World Cup winner Arbeloa tweeted on Wednesday.

Messi – preparing for the Copa America with Argentina – scored a LaLiga-high 36 goals in 2018-19 as he claimed his sixth European Golden Shoe.

The 31-year-old finished the season with 51 goals in all competitions as Barca reached the Champions League semi-final and Copa del Rey decider.

Lionel Messi insists he has not yet given up on the dream of winning the World Cup despite the "terrible" defeat in the 2014 final.

The Barcelona star was awarded the Golden Ball as the best player at the tournament in Brazil five years ago after inspiring his side to the final, where they faced Germany.

However, the main prize eluded Messi and Argentina at the Maracana, as Mario Gotze's extra-time strike secured a 1-0 win for Joachim Low's side.

Argentina were again beaten by the eventual winners four years later, with France knocking them out 4-3 at the last-16 stage en route to winning the 2018 tournament in Russia.

But Messi is not discounting the idea of getting his hands on international football's top prize, even though he will be 35 by the time the 2022 finals get underway in Qatar.

"God will say if we look at it or not," he told TyC Sports when asked about his hopes of lifting the World Cup trophy. "It would be the ultimate. It's the biggest dream I have yet to fulfil.

"Being so close to that World Cup [in 2014] was terrible, because we deserved to be able to lift it.

"It was the ultimate moment for that generation. We had an impressive group. It's getting tougher; nobody gives you anything and not conceding goals is so important."

Messi says his sons Thiago, six, and Mateo, three, are now old enough to watch him play for Argentina or Barca.

However, it seems Mateo has been happy to tease his father about defeats to Liverpool and Valencia in the Champions League and Copa del Rey in the past month - and even show support for Real Madrid.

"Thiago never misses a match," he said. "Mateo loves football, he wears all the shirts.

"We were playing at home and he said to me, 'I'm Liverpool, who beat you'; 'Valencia won, eh - I'm Valencia'.

"The TV is there, and he cheers Madrid's goals to annoy his brother. He's the one who is a Madrid fan."

Messi admits it is becoming increasingly difficult to leave his young family to join up with the national team, adding: "It's hard to leave them, more and more so. The call-ups are more difficult for me every time. I suffer being so far away from them."

Lionel Messi has cast doubt on Argentina's chances of winning this year's Copa America in Brazil.

Messi has twice reached the final of the competition, in 2015 and the Centenario edition in 2016, but on both occasions they were beaten by Chile on penalties.

Argentina have contested four of the past five finals but have lost all of them, with their last continental triumph coming back in 1993 in Ecuador.

And Messi is not convinced they will be challenging in 2019, as he believes the squad is undergoing a transition.

"We go with the same excitement as always, but the reality is that Argentina is going through a process of change," he told TyC Sports.

"It's the first official competition for most of them, but it doesn't mean Argentina are going looking for the trophy. We're not candidates like other times."

Messi admits his is still feeling the frustration of the end to the club season, with Barcelona having seen their treble dreams dashed in the closing weeks of the campaign.

Although they won LaLiga, a shock 4-0 defeat to Liverpool in the second leg of the Champions League semi-final saw them crash out of Europe, while they were beaten 2-1 by Valencia in the final of the Copa del Rey.

Despite those disappointments, Messi has been feeling good in the Argentina camp ahead of a friendly with Nicaragua on Saturday.

"I'm more tired and frustrated in my head than physically, most of all because of the elimination from the Champions League," he said. "In the last few years, I've played fewer minutes. I feel good."

"I feel very good. It's a really nice group that's very eager to do things well. It's a very good group, with really good people beyond just the footballing sense."

Sergio Aguero has confirmed he still plans to return to boyhood club Independiente before retiring as he prepares to make his Argentina comeback at the Copa America.

Aguero has not been selected by his country since their underwhelming performance at last year's World Cup, despite scoring twice as Jorge Sampaoli's side exited in the last 16.

Sampaoli was subsequently replaced by Lionel Scaloni, who recalled Manchester City striker Aguero in his Copa America squad instead of Inter's Mauro Icardi.

Aguero has regularly spoken of a desire to return to his homeland before hanging up his boots and he reiterated his plan at a news conference on Thursday.

"I always try [to get back to Argentina]," he told reporters, having left Independiente as a teenager in 2006 to join Atletico Madrid.

"I know what the fans [of Independiente] want, but I have a contract with City and I try to focus on these two years I've got left.

"Then I'll see what I'll do but of course, the Rojo [Independiente] is my priority."

Despite being an unused substitute as City thrashed Watford 6-0 in the FA Cup final to complete a historic domestic treble, Aguero had one of his most prolific seasons to date.

The 30-year-old hit 21 Premier League goals, becoming only the second player in the history of the competition to score at least 20 times in five consecutive campaigns.

Staying fit was crucial to Aguero's consistency and the striker is revelling in being pain-free as he prepares to make his mark at international level once more.

"In all the competitions, this was the year I have been at my best condition physically," he explained, having undergone minor knee surgery before the start of a campaign where he scored 32 times across all competitions. 

"I didn't have that many injuries... I only lost a week and a half in the whole year.

"For me it was fundamental to end the year the way I did and now I'll try to keep in the same shape with the national team.

"When you're not called up you imagine the worst, but I tried to do things right at my club, not thinking about it. Thank God, for my form and for the way I ended the season, I'm here today."

Aguero's presence could lighten the workload on his great friend and Argentina captain Lionel Messi, who did not play international football for nine months after Russia 2018.

"Well, of course, nobody likes losing," Aguero said of the Barcelona superstar. "Of course, he has suffered in his last competitions, the Champions League and the Copa del Rey. 

"He's not okay but he's grown up, he has experience. He knows football is like this, you have moments of joy but sometimes there's sadness.

"He knows best, he arrived here well and we all know how much Leo desires to be here and the happiness he radiates. He's fundamental.

"We know very well he loves the national team and I think you [the media] should realise by now."

Argentina host Nicaragua in a friendly next Sunday before facing Colombia in their Copa America opener on June 15.

Argentina struggle to win the World Cup even with Lionel Messi because they do not play as a team, according to former United States president Barack Obama.

South American giants Argentina are two-time world champions but have not added to their 1986 triumph, despite boasting all-time leading goalscorer and five-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi.

Argentina – back-to-back Copa America runners-up – crashed out in the last 16 at the 2018 World Cup following their run to the final four years earlier in Brazil.

Obama, who served as US president from 2009 to 2017 before being replaced by Donald Trump, discussed Argentina's struggles on Tuesday.

"Even people that we consider geniuses work with other people in order to develop their style," Obama said at the EXMA Conference in Bogota.

"In Argentina, even though Messi is wonderful, they have problems winning the World Cup."

"My advice to young people is that we have to recognise very few people achieve great things on their own," Obama added.

Obama's comments come as Messi and Argentina prepare for next month's Copa America in Brazil.

Argentina have been drawn in Group B, alongside Colombia, Paraguay and guests Qatar for the showpiece tournament.

Lionel Scaloni's Argentina will face Nicaragua in an international friendly in San Juan on June 7 before flying out to Brazil.

Lionel Scaloni admits it was difficult to leave players out of Argentina's 2019 Copa America squad but is confident he has chosen the country's 23 best players.

Paulo Dybala has made the cut despite a disappointing season with Juventus, while Manchester City's Sergio Aguero has been called up for the first time since last year's dreadful World Cup campaign.

However, there is no room for Inter striker Mauro Icardi after a controversial season with the Serie A club, which saw him left out of the team and stripped of the captaincy.

While conceding he had doubts during the selection process, Scaloni is now content he has a squad capable of winning the tournament for the first time since 1993.

"We believe that these are the best players we have at this moment," he told a media conference. "Some were left out due to injury, but they were always in consideration.

"When you have so many players of a good level to choose from, there are always doubts. It is difficult to explain everything, but the final decision is always about what is best for the team.

"We suffer when we have to leave a player out. It's our job, but it's not easy for us.

"We want people to identify with all these guys. We are convinced that they are the best for the moment. We are clear about what we want and we know what our idea is."

Argentina will play Colombia, Paraguay and Qatar in the group stage and Scaloni is expecting tough tests against all three.

"Colombia is one of the most powerful teams in South America; they have great players," he added.

"Paraguay is a very competitive team and Qatar won the Asian Cup by playing very well. It is going to be a complicated group."

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