Argentina striker Lucas Alario applauded "animal" Marcos Acuna after the Sporting CP star inspired Sunday's 6-1 friendly win over Ecuador.

Acuna, normally a left-sided attacker, has been deployed at full-back this season and filled that role impressively in Elche as Argentina romped to victory, coming in for Nicolas Tagliafico after he disappointed last time out.

The 27-year-old had a hand in the first three goals and was generally a lively presence up down the left flank.

Alario – who scored for the second match running – was particularly impressed, having opened the scoring with a header from Acuna's cross.

"Acuna is an animal," Alario told TyC Sports. "The routes he took… He was uncatchable.

"He runs all the time, he has a very good delivery and as a centre-forward, you have to take advantage of those qualities."

The victory ensures Argentina's international break will be seen in a largely positive light, having drawn 2-2 with Germany in a friendly on Wednesday, fighting back from 2-0 down.

Lionel Scaloni was left feeling encouraged, especially after being able to give so many players a run-out over the two games.

"In all the internationals we are satisfied, although it's true that because of the magnitude of the rivals we are also happy and that we could give many players minutes," Scaloni said.

"There is quality and desire to be here, too. We only need time and that the players play as they have done today [against Ecuador].

"The boys are understanding the changes and that must be valued. Honestly, I think these guys can give us a lot, although there are some things to correct.

"What I liked most was the last 20, 25 minutes, which was the period where the team pushed the most and ran despite the victory [already being secured].

"I am excited about the way these guys understand the meaning of this jersey. With these feelings it will be difficult to beat this team.

"There are five or six players who are the base and have always played. It is easy to know who they are: Lautaro Martinez, Leandro Paredes, Rodrigo De Paul, Nicolas Tagliafico, even Paulo Dybala and Marcos Acuna."

Argentina captain Lionel Messi will make his return from suspension in November, insists head coach Lionel Scaloni.

Messi was handed a three-month ban from international football in August for accusing South America's governing body CONMEBOL of "corruption" during the Copa America.

After being controversially sent off in Argentina's third-place play-off win over Chile in July, Messi did not appear to collect his medal and the five-time Ballon d'Or winner later explained that he did not want to "be part of this corruption, this lack of respect towards the whole Copa".

Messi also blasted the officiating at the competition following Argentina's semi-final loss to hosts Brazil, before then suggesting referees and the VAR would favour Tite's men against Peru in the final, which the Selecao won 3-1.

The Argentina skipper has missed friendlies against Chile, Mexico and Germany, and he will sit out Sunday's clash with Ecuador ahead of next month's return.

Asked about Messi, Scaloni told reporters: "Messi is not here due to suspension.

"Sergio Aguero is not here because he's been carrying a problem and has not been training 100 per cent with his club.

"Surely both will be here next month."

Argentina are coming off a 2-2 draw away to Germany on Wednesday – a game in which Scaloni's men overturned a two-goal deficit in the second half.

Scaloni has already named his line-up for the match against Ecuador, with Agustin Marchesin, Juan Foyth, German Pezzella, Walter Kannemann, Marcos Acuna, Nicolas Gonzalez, Rodrigo De Paul, Leandro Paredes, Lucas Ocampos, Lucas Alario and Lautaro Martinez starting.

"The idea is to play with attacking players. With players that get to the penalty area," Scaloni said.

"We believe that this is the right way. We take decisions thinking about what is best for the team."

Lionel Scaloni thinks Argentina's 2-2 draw with Germany on Wednesday produced arguably the best performance of his spell in charge of La Albiceleste.

Argentina found themselves trailing 2-0 in Dortmund after 22 minutes of the international friendly, as Serge Gnabry prodded in from close range before teeing up Kai Havertz for his first Germany goal.

But Scaloni's substitutions helped inspire a comeback, as Lucas Alario – brought on for Paulo Dybala just past the hour – headed in and then Lucas Ocampos sealed a draw late on having been introduced at half-time.

Scaloni stepped in after Argentina's shambolic 2018 World Cup campaign and has often attracted criticism for his selections and disappointing displays against better opposition, although Wednesday's comeback left him optimistic for the future.

When asked if it was the best showing of his tenure, Scaloni told reporters: "Possibly, yes, considering the opponent, but we had great games before, with our attitude.

"What stands out, aside from the performance, was the attitude of wanting to overcome the score and not give the match away. That was our team's greatest virtue in the second half.

"It was a complicated match at 2-0, and it could've ended badly for us, but we read the match properly.

"What we were supposed to do in the first half didn't happen. In the second half it did. We've matured lot, that's what these matches are all about; growing for the future, with complicated things ahead.

"I think it [the second half] was the same as the first half, with the distinction that we didn't commit any mistakes at ball clearances.

"We had four mistakes in the first period; two of them were goals, the other two weren't.

"In these kinds of games, what matters is the functionality over the score. Logically, if we don't lose, it's better. The score comes second, most important is the performance.

"In the second half, I'll say it again, we saw another Argentina, a more decisive Argentina that knew what to do. But the first half needs to be properly analysed.

"There were mistakes and if we could erase those mistakes, the performance wasn't bad. Logically, Argentina were superior in the second half, so we must point out the good aspects and correct the bad ones from now on."

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni claimed Lautaro Martinez and Paulo Dybala are the future of the national team ahead of Wednesday’s friendly with Germany.

Scaloni confirmed his starting lineup for the international in Dortmund and named the pair to start up front in the absence of Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and a host of players from River Plate and Bocas Juniors, who have been withdrawn due to Copa Libertadores commitments later this month. 

The 41-year-old is looking to integrate fresh names into the team ahead of back-to-back Copa America’s and the start of 2022 World Cup qualifying next year.

In-form Martinez and Dybala both scored in Sunday’s top-of-the-table Derby D’Italia as Juventus defeated Inter Milan 2-1, and Scaloni is excited to seeing the pair link-up for their country.

"I think they will be called up to the Argentina National Team for many years and in this change and re-structuring, they are the ones who should hold the flag up high," he told reporters. "They are good friends and more importantly the future of this shirt. Last Sunday’s game was very good and we hope they play well together (on Wednesday).

"They (Germany) have great players that are out due to injury but we do as well and they are just as important as their players. It’s a challenge and many of them who will go out tomorrow will find out if they are capable of playing.

"I believe this is the last step in finalising our squad and seeing who we have.”

Argentina’s friendly with Germany is the first of two European-based friendlies for La Albiceleste with a fixture to come against Ecuador at the Elche’s Martinez Valero Stadium on Sunday.

Emiliano Martinez and Nicolas Gonzalez have earned maiden call-ups to an Argentina squad that is again without talisman Lionel Messi.

Captain Messi was handed a three-month ban by CONMEBOL after accusing the governing body of "corruption" during the Copa America, which was appealed against earlier this month.

The Barcelona superstar is suffering with a thigh injury, having also missed the start of the campaign with a calf complaint, and would have been absent for friendlies against Germany and Ecuador next month regardless.

Head coach Lionel Scaloni has not called any River Plate or Boca Juniors players into his squad due to their Copa Libertadores semi-final clash.

However, Arsenal's back-up goalkeeper Martinez and Stuttgart forward Gonzalez, who has three goals in five second-tier matches this term, will hope to earn first caps.

Tottenham duo Juan Foyth and Erik Lamela return to the 23-man squad, while Borussia Dortmund defender Leonardo Balerdi and Espanyol midfielder Matias Vargas – who each have one cap – will be looking to earn more experience.

Argentina face Germany in Dortmund on October 9 and are also scheduled to face Ecuador during the international break.

 

Agustin Marchesin (Porto), Juan Musso (Udinese), Emiliano Martinez (Arsenal); Juan Foyth (Tottenham), Renzo Saravia (Porto), Nicolas Otamendi (Manchester City), German Pezzella (Fiorentina), Marcos Rojo (Manchester United), Walter Kannemann (Gremio), Nicolas Tagliafico (Ajax), Leonardo Balerdi (Borussia Dortmund); Guido Rodriguez (America), Matias Zaracho (Racing Club), Leandro Paredes (Paris Saint-Germain), Nicolas Dominguez (Velez Sarsfield), Rodrigo De Paul (Udinese), Marcos Acuna (Sporting Lisbon), Roberto Pereyra (Watford), Angel Correa (Atletico Madrid), Lucas Ocampos (Sevilla), Erik Lamela (Tottenham); Matias Vargas (Espanyol), Nicolas Gonzalez (Stuttgart), Lucas Alario (Bayer Leverkusen), Lautaro Martinez (Inter), Paulo Dybala (Juventus) 

Lionel Messi will remain the best player in the world for as long as he wants to be, according to Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni.

Barcelona superstar Messi won The Best FIFA Men's Player award on Monday, pipping Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk and long-time rival Cristiano Ronaldo to the honour.

Scaloni has no doubt the 32-year-old was a deserving winner and thinks he will continue being the sport's leading light for many years.

"It's normal Messi won The Best, because he is the best," said Scaloni.

"He will remain the best as long he wants, has the capacity and is physically able.

"He is magical and he is a player who, while we can enjoy him, it would be great if everyone valued him, because there will be no one else like him."

Messi missed Argentina's friendlies against Chile and Mexico and will sit out fixtures with Germany and Ecuador in October due to a three-month ban after he claimed the Copa America was "corrupt" following his red card in a third-place play-off win against La Roja.

"He is suspended but he is part of the squad," said Scaloni. "Leo is delighted with his team-mates. We hope he brings joy to the people, which is the most important thing."

Despite Argentina's wait for a first senior international title since 1993 extending at this year’s Copa America, Scaloni retained his position for 2022 World Cup qualifying.

Messi thinks it was the right decision and backed the 41-year-old to be a success.

"He's a coach who has things clear in his head, who knows how to watch football and is very good at getting things across," Messi told FIFA.

"He's easy to understand, he's good at his job and he knows how to handle the players. I think they got it right in giving him the job permanently and the space and time he needs to work with the national team."

Lionel Scaloni was delighted with the application of his Argentina side against Mexico, claiming they played "a perfect game" in a 4-0 victory.

Lautaro Martinez hit a first-half hat-trick as Argentina, still without Lionel Messi, ended Tata Martino's unbeaten start to life as Mexico coach in style, with Leandro Paredes also on target from the penalty spot.

Scaloni's men ceded possession to their opponents at San Antonio's Alamodome, but the coach saw his plan work to a tee and hailed the team's spirit.

"We knew the way that Mexico would play and we came out quickly to create some chances," he told a news conference. "We are happy because we played a perfect game.

"We knew that Mexico would dominate the opening minutes and that's why we were prepared to go out on the counter-attack.

"We gave the feeling that we are a team - that's the important thing. Everyone played for their lives, for their team-mates and for wanting to be in the Argentina team.

"We knew that if we recovered the ball, we would have to get it quickly to the striker.

"It's no good if we just defend well. We analysed Mexico a lot and we were courageous enough to do what we had to do in this match.

"We want an Argentina team that is competitive, where our opponents respect us."

Martinez was substituted at half-time, with Scaloni revealing the striker had been carrying a knock prior to the match, joking the Inter star appeared to play better injured.

"The change was planned, because he had some discomfort," the coach said. "Hopefully he can continue playing with discomfort."

Lautaro Martinez stole the show to lead Argentina to an impressive 4-0 win over Mexico in a friendly in Texas on Tuesday.

Martinez scored a stunning first-half hat-trick at the Alamodome as Lionel Scaloni's men ran riot in the opening 45 minutes.

Inter forward Martinez was the star, netting three times and also helping Argentina – without the suspended Lionel Messi – win a penalty that was converted by Leandro Paredes.

Martinez came off at the break after putting Argentina in complete control as they saw out a comprehensive victory.

It was quite the way for Mexico to be handed their first defeat under head coach Gerardo Martino, who took over in January.

Mexico could have been awarded an early penalty for a handball, but instead fell behind in the 17th minute.

Martinez received a pass from Paredes 30 yards from goal, running at the Mexico defence and beating three markers before placing a left-footed strike into the bottom corner.

Just five minutes later and Martinez doubled his, and Argentina's, tally.

Exequiel Palacios put in a beautiful throughball for Martinez's well-timed run, the forward producing a first-time finish into the bottom corner.

Argentina's incredible start continued when they were awarded a penalty for a Carlos Salcedo handball, the ball hitting the defender's outstretched arm after a Martinez flick.

Paredes stepped up and while Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa got a hand on the spot-kick, it found the bottom corner to make it 3-0.

Martinez had Mexico panicking and it showed as he remarkably completed a first-half hat-trick.

The 22-year-old's first touch after a Palacios pass let him down but Nestor Araujo was unable to deal with the loose ball, Martinez claiming possession again before firing past Ochoa.

Martinez came off at half-time and Argentina almost struck again six minutes into the second half, Ochoa saving a strike from Rodrigo De Paul.

Substitutions impacted the rhythm of the contest, although Argentina were never in trouble after Martine's first-half heroics.

 

What does it mean? Scaloni's Argentina produce one of their best

Scaloni has faced plenty of criticism since taking the helm, but Tuesday's first half was undoubtedly one of Argentina's best since he was named coach in August last year. Martinez's performance helped, but they denied Mexico clear-cut chances and were clinical.

Martinez marvellous for Argentina

The Inter forward had Mexico's defence worried throughout and he took his chances. Palacios' wonderful pass set up Martinez's second, but it was otherwise the former Racing Club doing all the hard work to move onto nine international goals.

Martino unable to stop Mexico's Argentina woe

Under Martino, Mexico have shown they can contend with South American sides, beating Chile, Paraguay, Venezuela and Ecuador during an 11-match unbeaten streak with the former Barcelona boss in charge. But they are now winless in their past 10 meetings with Argentina, a run dating back to the 2004 Copa America.

What's next?

Argentina will take on Germany in a friendly next month, while Mexico meet Trinidad and Tobago before CONCACAF Nations League clashes with Bermuda and Panama.

Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni has praised the work of Gerardo Martino and said he expects a tough test when his side take on Mexico in Texas.

Both men started their playing careers with Argentine club Newell's Old Boys and have since made the move into management.

Martino guided Argentina to two Copa America finals before stepping down in July 2016 and is now in charge of Mexico, via a spell with Major League Soccer side Atlanta United.

Scaloni considered Martino an "idol" figure at Newell's Old Boys and still holds the 56-year-old in high regard.

"I was Martino's partner at Newell's," he told reporters ahead of Tuesday's friendly with Mexico in the United States. "He was there when I debuted. For me, he was the idol of the club and still is. 

"It was a lifelong reference and marked a time for all of us who played at the bottom and had the chance to do it.

"He has a very clear idea of ​​the game and it is very important to play against this team. I am sure it will be a very difficult team for any team. It will be difficult.

"As a coaching staff, seeing the operation of all the teams, we like some things about Mexico. We are similar in the line of play, being a leading team.

Without the suspended Lionel Messi, Argentina played out a goalless draw with Chile on Friday in their first match since beating the same opponents in the third-place play-off at the Copa America.

Scaloni has suggested he will make changes to his starting line-up against Mexico and has called on his players to keep better control of the ball.

"At one point with Chile we lost control of the game," he said. "Mexico like to keep the ball, so do we. The more control we have, the better. It takes time. It worked, we have it clearer before a complicated opponent.

"There are three players I'll wait until Tuesday [to decide on]. I don't want them to go out if they're not 100 per cent.

"If I think about getting results, the call would have been different. On the other hand, we would be left with the feeling that there are young boys who can give us a lot. 

"The results this week is secondary. They are tests to see where we stand. We will continue with the same line of play."

Giovani Lo Celso eased fears over his fitness following a pair of injury scares in Argentina's friendly against Chile in Los Angeles.

Tottenham loanee Lo Celso lasted until the 53rd minute of the bruising 0-0 draw, during which 10 yellow cards were handed out.

The 23-year-old was left beating the turf in anguish when Charles Aranguiz caught him above the foot with a crude studs-up tackle in the first half.

Referee Jair Marrufo opted against sanctioning the Chile midfielder for a second time, having booked him in the seventh minute.

The Argentine Football Association later suggested Lo Celso had suffered a groin problem, but the former Paris Saint-Germain midfielder provided a positive update after the match.

"It was only a blow, nothing to worry about," he said.

Lo Celso almost made the breakthrough for Argentina when he volleyed marginally wide of Claudio Bravo's goal shortly before the interval.

Inter forward Lautaro Martinez also threatened regularly but the sides could not be separated.

"We deserved a bit more. We had a lot of chances to score but it wasn't to be," Lo Celso added.

"We had a good game, generally speaking. The first half was where we had the most chances. We created some good opportunities with a lot of people in attack.

"We were up against a very tough opponent and we were up to their level."

Lionel Scaloni selected a youthful squad for the Albiceleste's first outing since the Copa America and felt the less-experienced players adapted well to the international arena.

"We wanted to give the younger players minutes," the Argentina boss said.

"With the game in progress, they usually enter much calmer. That was the idea. It makes me happy that the new players didn't notice the weight of the shirt.

"We always want to win but the important thing was the performance, which was good at times."

Boca Juniors attacker Alexis Mac Allister was one of seven uncapped players named in Argentina's squad for upcoming friendlies against Chile and Mexico.

Lionel Scaloni named a 27-man squad on Sunday, including Mac Allister, Leonardo Balerdi, Nicolas Figal, Lucas Martinez, Nicolas Dominguez, Lucas Ocampos and Adolfo Gaich.

Mac Allister, 20, is on loan at Boca from Premier League club Brighton and Hove Albion, who signed the attacker in January.

Argentina, who finished third at the Copa America, are without superstar Lionel Messi as the forward serves a suspension.

It is an inexperienced squad for the friendlies in September, with Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria among the players joining Messi in missing.

Argentina face Chile in Los Angeles on September 5 before taking on Mexico in Texas five days later.

Argentina: Esteban Andrada (Boca Juniors), Franco Armani (River Plate), Agustin Marchesin (Porto); Leonardo Balerdi (Borussia Dortmund), Nicolas Figal (Independiente), Lucas Martinez (River Plate), Gonzalo Montiel (River Plate), Nicolas Otamendi (Manchester City), German Pezzella (Fiorentina), Marcos Rojo (Manchester United), Nicolas Tagliafico (Ajax); Marcos Acuna (Sporting CP), Rodrigo De Paul (Udinese), Nicolas Dominguez (Velez Sarsfield), Manuel Lanzini (West Ham), Giovani Lo Celso (Tottenham), Alexis Mac Allister (Boca Juniors), Lucas Ocampos (Sevilla), Exequiel Palacios (River Plate), Leandro Paredes (Paris Saint-Germain), Roberto Pereyra (Watford), Guido Rodriguez (America), Matias Zaracho (Racing Club); Joaquin Correa (Lazio), Paulo Dybala (Juventus), Adolfo Gaich (San Lorenzo), Lautaro Martinez (Inter).

Lionel Scaloni will take charge of Argentina in qualifying for the 2022 World Cup, the Argentine Football Association (AFA) has confirmed.

Scaloni was part of Argentina's coaching staff for their poor campaign at Russia 2018, after which Jorge Sampaoli left his post.

The AFA put the former Deportivo La Coruna defender in charge, initially on a temporary basis, and he led Argentina to the Copa America semi-finals, where they lost to rivals and eventual champions Brazil.

But it seems Scaloni has done enough to impress the AFA as he will be staying in charge for their qualifying campaign.

"The executive committee of the AFA decided to give continuity during the next qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar that will begin next year, to the selection project headed by Lionel Scaloni," an AFA statement said.

Argentina won the Copa America third-place play-off earlier this month against Chile in a match that saw star forward Lionel Messi controversially sent off.

They are set to face Chile, Mexico and Germany in friendlies ahead of starting on the road to Qatar.

Lionel Messi's red card in Argentina's 2-1 win over Chile at the Copa America bemused head coach Lionel Scaloni, who defended the country's captain.

Argentina ended their Copa America campaign with a bronze medal after overcoming Chile in Saturday's third-place play-off, however, the result was overshadowed by Messi's controversial dismissal.

Messi and Gary Medel both saw red in the first half after the Chile midfielder reacted angrily to a challenge and repeatedly bumped into the five-time Ballon d'Or winner with his chest.

Afterwards, Messi railed against "corruption" and "a lack of respect" following his decision to snub the medal ceremony at Arena Corinthians, having been critical of the officiating in the aftermath of Argentina's semi-final loss to hosts Brazil.

Asked about Messi's red card, Scaloni told reporters: "I have seen the video and so far, I do not understand what he did to have been expelled.

"It would be interesting if the referee came out to public to speak exactly what he saw and also the men of the VAR.

"Obviously, he made a very quick decision, very strange, and worst of all is that the VAR does not correct, because for this there is the VAR. The VAR is here to help, and today it did not help."

Scaloni added: "We have already seen a few times expulsions in which the referee returns in the decision and shows the yellow card. This is what should have happened in this case.

"If you look well, Messi did nothing. Well, they did not go back on the decision, they did not review it. I think the criterion is very strange. The other day Uruguay, I think it was by the nail of the foot, by the finger of Cavani pointed offside. They reviewed the video 55 times to try to justify, and with our team, everything that is against, is not reviewed.

"Not a good feeling, honestly. I do not want to think badly, but the feeling does not convince me. It does not convince our team, nor the Chileans, that we play today, Uruguay... There were many teams that had a bad feeling about this matter, and we were the most harmed because today we would be speaking in another situation."

Lionel Messi was sent off as Argentina beat Chile 2-1 to clinch Copa America bronze with both sides reduced to 10 men in an ill-tempered clash at Arena Corinthians.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner appeared to be the victim of shoving by Chile's Gary Medel, but the referee sent both players off after 37 minutes with Argentina already two goals to the good.

Messi provided the assist for Sergio Aguero's 12th-minute opener before Juventus forward Paulo Dybala doubled Argentina's lead, but the first half ended with protests against the contentious red cards.

There were 21 fouls before the break and sparks continued to fly as Chile were awarded a penalty just before the hour, Arturo Vidal scoring from the spot.

Reinaldo Rueda's men failed to force an equaliser, but there was time for two further bookings that took the tally of cards shown to eight at the end of an explosive encounter.

Aguero lashed a shot narrowly wide after seven minutes but made amends moments later when Messi's nonchalant free-kick picked out the Manchester City striker, who rounded Gabriel Arias before slotting home from a tight angle.

Chile's Alexis Sanchez limped off clutching his hamstring before Arias made a diving save from an 18-yard Messi drive but was beaten again when Dybala controlled Giovani Lo Celso's throughball and chipped over the goalkeeper from the edge of the six-yard box.

Dybala sent a flying volley just wide before a volatile first half turned nasty when Medel pushed Messi around the pitch only for the referee to send both players off amid vociferous complaints on all sides. 

The second half began with a a penalty claim, Charles Aranguiz appearing to bundle Aguero over in the box, but the referee saw no foul.

He awarded a penalty to Chile when Lo Celso slid in late on Aranguiz and Vidal lashed the spot-kick straight down the middle.

Lionel Scaloni sent on Angel Di Maria for Dybala and the winger embarked on a mazy dribble past several Chile players before selling Aguero slightly short with his final ball and the striker fired tamely at Arias with the last clear chance of the game.

 

What does it mean? Scaloni's future remains hopeful

Argentina's failure to reach the final left Scaloni under pressure and his contract is up at the end of the year, but avoiding defeat here will have taken some of the heat of the Albiceleste coach.

Dybala looking dangerous

Reportedly a transfer target for Manchester United, Paulo Dybala did his chances of earning a lucrative move away from Juventus no harm with a lively performance and a well-taken goal.

Pulgar lucky to stay on

On a night when the referee was struggling to keep order, Erick Pulgar was lucky to escape with just a booking after throwing himself into several rash challenges.

What's next?

Chile will have the opportunity for revenge when the two sides meet in September in a game that looks likely to make a mockery of the term 'friendly'.

Argentina boss Lionel Scaloni insisted he has already passed a major test of leadership ahead of his team's Copa America third-place play-off against Chile.

After several years of chopping and changing managers, Argentina were hopeful Scaloni would lead them to trophy glory in Brazil to prove without any doubt he is the right man for the job.

He was appointed last year in the wake of Argentina's World Cup failure, when Jorge Sampaoli was in charge.

At the Copa, however, Argentina missed out after losing 2-0 to hosts Brazil in the semi-finals and inevitably that led to questions being asked of Scaloni's leadership.

He addressed that issue on Friday, saying: "I do not feel as though I am on trial. I think my test has already passed. Bringing these players and making them play was my test, and I did it. What we came to do, we did."

Scaloni believes he has selected the best available squad for Argentina and said: "These players will be the future of the national team, whoever the coach is."

His contract runs until the end of the year, and it might help Scaloni's prospects of a longer run at the job if Argentina can deliver an assured performance on Saturday at the Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo.

"The match with Chile is important," said Scaloni. "We want to finish in the best way possible. Everyone is motivated."

The match is a repeat of the 2015 and 2016 final, both of which Chile won on penalties after goalless draws.

Chile's Colombian coach Reinaldo Rueda looked back to the title match of three years ago, saying both teams are now in a new era.

Arturo Vidal is a major doubt for the game, Rueda revealed, saying the Barcelona midfielder's sprained ankle needed to be cared for. "But we know his character and his desire to be out there," Rueda added.

The former Honduras and Ecuador boss saw Chile lose 3-0 to Peru in their last-four game and, like Scaloni, he wants to leave Brazil on a winning note.

"It is an important match in every sense," Rueda said. "For dignity, pride and for wanting to finish well in a tournament at which something we achieved something important."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Argentina - Lionel Messi

Messi was furious with the officiating in Argentina's semi-final defeat, reflecting the mood of a nation after two possible penalties were turned down and not referred to VAR. If he plays, will the Barcelona superstar be in the mood to take out his frustration on Chile? Messi has suggested he is ready to play on at least until next year's Copa America, which Argentina are co-hosting with Colombia, so this is not likely to be a farewell game.

Chile - Alexis Sanchez

While his Manchester United team-mates prepare to jet off to Australia on tour, Sanchez is finishing off his campaign in Brazil. The man who has flattered to deceive at Old Trafford could give United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer a close-season boost by signing off from this tournament with a stirring performance - and he could still finish as the Copa America's outright top scorer given he is one of 13 players tied for the lead on two goals.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Argentina have won 59 of their 88 meetings against Chile in all competitions (D23 L6).
- Argentina lost on the only previous occasion they played in a third-place play-off in a Copa America tournament, beaten 2-1 by Colombia in 1987.
- This will be the first third-place play-off between two teams that have faced each other before in a Copa America final.
- Chile and Argentina lost their semi-final games against Peru and Brazil, respectively, despite having attempted 10 shots more than their opponents (Chile 19-9 Peru; Argentina 14-4 Brazil).
- Chile's Charles Aranguiz has created the most chances (17) in the 2019 Copa America; at least four more than any other player.

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