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Jul 3, 2024 5:34 pm

Lautaro Martinez boosts Argentina going into Ecuador match

Lautaro Martinez

The availability of Argentina superstar Lionel Messi is still in question for the Copa America quarterfinal matchup against Ecuador on Thursday in Houston.

The 37-year-old missed the 2-0 win over Peru on Saturday in the final game of group play because of a right groin/adductor injury sustained in the previous match against Chile on June 25. He resumed training with the team Monday.

“We have to wait. We’ll train in a couple of hours, and then we’ll make the decision,” Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni said Wednesday. “It’s always better when you can add one more training. We want to take the time to decide after the session.

“I’ll discuss it with him, and then I’ll make a decision. I haven’t done so yet, so I don’t know what will happen (Thursday).”

So far, the defending 2021 Copa America and 2022 World Cup champions have been doing just fine without their superstar at full strength.

Argentina defeated Canada 2-0, Chile 1-0 and Peru 2-0 to win Group A.

Not only did Argentina score all five of its goals in the second half, Lautaro Martinez scored four of them. He came off the bench in the first two matches to score in the 88th minute of each, and in his first start of the tourney, he notched a brace against Peru.

Martinez had three goals in the 2021 Copa America.

Argentina has won eight straight matches in all competitions, outscoring opponents 17-2 with six shutouts.

Ecuador had to claw its way to the knockout round, needing a scoreless draw against Mexico to advance out of Group B.

That experience should help the players prepare for Argentina because they’ve already dealt with the possibility of elimination.

“It is yet another final for us, and we will try to compete against the world’s champion and the world’s best team,” Ecuador coach Felix Sanchez said. “I believe that our team is going to be extremely motivated with a very high morale and trying to play a good match.

“I have full confidence in our players. I know that they are going to give their best as they’ve done in the three matches.”

Argentina downed Ecuador 3-0 in the quarterfinals of Copa America in July 2021.

–Field Level Media

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