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Messi returns to Argentina’s national team for friendlies

March 7, 2019
Barcelona forward Lionel Messi, right, controls the ball as Real midfielder Gareth Bale looks on during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona at the Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Saturday, March 2, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrea Comas)

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Lionel Messi is back with Argentina’s national team.

The five-time world player of the year was called up by interim Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni on Thursday for a pair of friendly matches ahead of this year’s Copa America in Brazil.

Argentina will play Venezuela on March 22 in Madrid and then face Morocco four days later in Tangiers.

The 31-year-old Messi last played for his national team eight months ago at the World Cup in Russia. Argentina lost to eventual champion France 4-3 in the last 16.

Argentina has played six matches since then, all without Messi.

“I believe he is happy and wants to try once more. He is welcome,” Scaloni said. “The World Cup was tough for all, even more so for him.”

Argentina has not lifted a single trophy since the 1993 Copa America. It lost to Chile in the last two finals of the tournament, in 2015 and in the centennial edition of 2016, and was defeated by Germany in the 2014 World Cup final in Brazil.

But Scaloni hopes that record will not weigh on Messi at this stage of his career.

“We have the best in the world, but because of one thing or another we did not (win a title with him). We have also reached three finals with him,” Scaloni said.

Argentina’s squad for the two friendlies does not include strikers Sergio Aguero of Manchester City and Mauro Icardi of Inter Milan.

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Squad:

Goalkeepers: Agustin Marchesin (America de Mexico), Juan Musso (Udinese), Esteban Andrada (Boca Juniors), Franco Armani (River Plate).

Defenders: German Pezzella (Fiorentina), Nicolas Tagliafico (Ajax), Gabriel Mercado (Sevilla), Juan Foyth (Tottenham), Nicolas Otamendi (Manchester City), Walter Kannemann (Gremio), Marcos Acuna (Sporting Lisbon), Gonzalo Montiel (River Plate), Renzo Saravia (Racing Club), Lisandro Martinez (Defensa y Justicia).

Midfielders: Leandro Paredes,(Paris Saint-Germain), Angel Di Maria (Paris Saint-Germain), Guido Rodriguez (America de Mexico), Giovanni Lo Celso (Betis), Domingo Blanco (Defensa y Justicia), Rodrigo De Paul (Udinese), Manuel Lanzini (West Ham), Roberto Pereyra (Watford), Matias Zaracho (Racing Club), Ivan Marcone (Boca Juniors).

Forwards: Gonzalo Martinez (Atlanta United), Paulo Dybala (Juventus), Lautaro Martinez (Inter Milan), Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Dario Benedetto (Boca Juniors), Matias Suarez (River Plate) and Angel Correa (Atletico Madrid).

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