Will Messi play in Argentina vs. Paraguay qualifier of South American World Cup?

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Lionel Messi’s participation in Argentina’s South American World Cup qualifier against Paraguay on Thursday is in doubt, despite his recent return to training and club action. 

Coach Lionel Scaloni expressed uncertainty regarding the 36-year-old star player’s readiness for the crucial match.

Messi made a comeback after an injury layoff when he played 37 minutes as a second-half substitute for Inter Miami in Major League Soccer last Saturday. However, his limited playing time since early September, coupled with an injury sustained during international duty last month, raises questions about his fitness.

Scaloni revealed, “We still have one more training session, and it’s important for him. I have to talk it over with him and make sure we are convinced he can start. He looked good. Based on that, we will see the rest of the team.”

The coach also noted the upcoming match against Peru in Lima just five days later, which factors into their decision.

Argentina has performed well in their previous qualifiers, winning both games and currently sharing the top position with Brazil, each with six points.

In case Messi is unable to play, Scaloni has the option of starting Manchester City striker Julian Alvarez and Inter Milan’s Lautaro Martinez as a pair. Scaloni commented, “They’ve already played together as starters. I’m open to many things. It will depend on the match. It wouldn’t be a problem. They’re different, but they can play.”

Paraguay, on the other hand, has had a modest start to their qualification campaign with just one point from their initial matches, currently occupying the sixth spot, which grants automatic qualification for the 2026 World Cup.

In another key matchup on Thursday, Brazil will host Venezuela in Cuiaba. Brazil is currently under interim coach Fernando Diniz and will face a resilient Venezuelan team. Casemiro, the Brazilian midfielder, emphasized the importance of respecting their opponents, noting that in South America, there are no easy games.

Casemiro stated, “It’s going to be a difficult game. Venezuela has their merits, many players playing in Europe, quality players. The important thing here is respect.”

After their clash with Venezuela, Brazil will face Uruguay in Montevideo on Tuesday, further testing their adaptability under a new coach.

Thursday’s matches also include Colombia hosting Uruguay, Bolivia taking on Ecuador, and Peru visiting Chile. South America’s World Cup qualifiers continue to offer thrilling matchups and intense competition on the road to the 2026 World Cup.

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