Messi sends Argentina to World Cup with last warmup goal

LA PLATA Argentina Sun Jun 8, 2014 9:39am IST

Argentina's Lionel Messi (R) scores his team's second goal past Slovenia's goalkeeper Vid Belec during an international friendly match in preparation for the 2014 World Cup, in Buenos Aires June 7, 2014. REUTERS/Enrique Marcarian

Argentina's Lionel Messi (R) scores his team's second goal past Slovenia's goalkeeper Vid Belec during an international friendly match in preparation for the 2014 World Cup, in Buenos Aires June 7, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Enrique Marcarian

LA PLATA Argentina (Reuters) - Substitute Lionel Messi scored his 38th goal for Argentina as they breezed past Slovenia 2-0 in their final World Cup warmup on Saturday.

Messi, his country's second highest scorer after Gabriel Batistuta, had not found the net in an international since a 5-2 qualifying win over Paraguay in Asuncion in September.

Argentina's captain began the match on the bench along with other key players like Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria, with coach Alejandro Sabella fearful of his squad being caught up in the spate of injuries affecting other World Cup finalists.

Sabella used the friendly at the Estadio Unico to test an alternative tactical plan with three at the back and five across the middle before changing things in the second half.

Winger Ricky Alvarez opened the scoring in the 12th minute with a low left-foot shot from the edge of the box but two minutes later midfielder Lucas Biglia came off after receiving a knock and was replaced by Hugo Campagnaro.

In the 76th minute Di Maria lobbed the ball from the edge of the box to the left where Aguero headed it down to Messi, who had come on for Alvarez in the 57th, and he dinked it between two defenders and the goalkeeper.

"Now the hour of truth has come, the friendlies are over and we're going to Brazil full of desire," Messi told reporters after winning his 86th cap.

"We've managed to be a united and very strong squad and we did that as Alejandro wanted. We're more together than ever because of the dream we all have."

Biglia joined Rodrigo Palacio, who twisted his ankle in the 3-0 win over Trinidad & Tobago on Wednesday, and Martin Demichelis in nursing minor injuries as the squad headed for their tournament base in Belo Horizonte.

Argentina open their Group F programme against Bosnia at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro on June 15 before meeting Iran in Belo Horizonte on June 21 and Nigeria in Porto Alegre four days later.

(Reporting by Luis Ampuero, writing by Rex Gowar, editing by Tony Jimenez)

Reuters Showcase

Putin Critic Killed

Putin Critic Killed

Russians march in memory of murdered Putin critic.  Full Article 

Pakistan's First Win

Pakistan's First Win

Irfan bounces Zimbabwe out as Pakistan claim first win.  Full Article 

Budget 2015

Budget 2015

Full coverage of 2015/16 budget.  Full Coverage 

Hacked to Death

Hacked to Death

Bangladesh pays tribute to U.S. blogger killed in machete attack.  Full Article 

The Apple Car

The Apple Car

Apple car rumours fuel Geneva debate about car of future.  Full Article 

Movie Review

Movie Review

"Dum Laga Ke Haisha" is rooted in reality, writes Shilpa Jamkhandikar.  Full Article | Related Story 

Crowded Market

Crowded Market

China's Huawei enters smartwatch frenzy with round-face models.  Full Article 

Lathmar Holi

In Pics: Lathmar Holi

Images of "Lathmar Holi" at Nandgaon in Uttar Pradesh.  Full Coverage 

World Cup 2015

World Cup 2015

Full coverage of cricket world cup in Australia and New Zealand.  Full Coverage 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage