Lionel Messi's availability for Argentina's upcoming match is still uncertain, while Neymar under fire in Brazil


Lionel Messi’s availability for Argentina’s upcoming match is still uncertain, while Neymar under fire in Brazil

SAO PAULO (AP) — Lionel Messi’s recent participation in Argentina’s 1-0 victory over Paraguay, despite his recent struggles with muscular pains, does not guarantee his availability for the upcoming World Cup qualifying match against Peru.

While Messi practiced with the squad, it remains uncertain whether he will play against Peru on Tuesday. The 36-year-old player has been dealing with muscular issues in his right leg, which led to his absence from several MLS matches with his club, Inter Miami.

In Brazil, Neymar has been facing criticism for his underwhelming performance in a 1-1 draw against Venezuela, which even resulted in some fans throwing popcorn at the Arena Pantanal in Cuiabá. He now faces a tough challenge against Uruguay to demonstrate his return to form.

The next World Cup, taking place in the United States, Mexico, and Canada, will feature a 48-team format, offering direct entry to the top six South American teams. The seventh-place team will have to participate in an intercontinental playoff for a chance to qualify.

As it stands in South American qualifying, Argentina leads with 9 points, followed by Brazil (7), Colombia (5), Uruguay, Chile, and Venezuela (4), Ecuador (3), Paraguay and Peru (1), and Bolivia (0).

The fourth match day in South American qualifying also features matches between Ecuador and Colombia, Paraguay and Bolivia, and Venezuela taking on Chile.


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Argentina’s practice on Sunday didn’t clarify whether Messi will play against Peru. Although he participated in the morning session at the training ground, his recent muscular issues have raised doubts about his fitness.

Should Messi play, coach Lionel Scaloni may have to decide between Julián Alvarez and Lautaro Martinez to accommodate him in the starting lineup, which may result in Nico Gonzalez taking the field again in Lima.

In Argentina’s previous match against Paraguay, Messi was substituted for Julián Álvarez in the 52nd minute. While he hit the post twice, his overall performance at the Monumental de Nuñez Stadium in Buenos Aires was relatively subdued.

Peru has faced two consecutive losses in South American qualifying and arrived back from Chile in silence after a 2-0 defeat. The squad acknowledges the tough challenge ahead as they prepare to face the World Cup champion.


Brazil’s draw against Venezuela left fans frustrated, as it was a team that has never qualified for a World Cup. Neymar, in particular, faced criticism for missed passes and lackluster finishes in the game. The incident involving some fans throwing popcorn at Neymar led to further scrutiny. In Brazil’s soccer tradition, players who fail to perform in major matches are referred to as “pipoqueiro” (popcorn man).

Neymar, who is Brazil’s all-time top goal scorer with 79 goals in official matches, is expected to face Uruguay in Montevideo on Tuesday.

The new Brazil coach, Fernando Diniz, is likely to make three changes for the upcoming round of qualifying. Due to an injury, right-back Danilo is set to be replaced by Yan Couto. Left-back Guilherme Arana may be replaced by 24-year-old Carlos Augusto, who is set to make his national team debut. Additionally, striker Richarlison, who has been on a six-match goal drought for the national team, could be replaced by Gabriel Jesus.

Uruguay has not defeated Brazil in World Cup qualifying since 2001. Captain Federico Valverde is optimistic about the upcoming match following a 2-2 draw with Colombia. He highlighted the discussions he had with his Real Madrid teammates, Vinicius Júnior and Rodrygo of Brazil, in preparation for the game. Uruguay has been under the coaching of Argentine Marcelo Bielsa since the start of South American qualifying.


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