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Thursday , March 23 2023

Messi injured on return as Argentina lose to Venezuela

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Argentina’s Lionel Messi (right), fights for the ball with Venezuela’s Juan Pablo during an international friendly soccer match between Argentina and Venezuela at Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid, Spain on March 22. (AP)

Falcao gives Colombia win in Japan, SKorea edge Bolivia

MADRID, March 23, (Agencies): Lionel Messi returned to Argentina duty for the first time since the World Cup on Friday but it was a disappointing outing for the forward as they lost 3-1 to Venezuela and he was ruled out of their next match with a groin problem.

Messi showed flashes of brilliance but it was not his night as Venezuela put three past their more illustrious rivals for the first time with goals from Salomon Rondon, Jhon Murillo and Josef Martinez. Lautaro Martinez got Argentina’s consolation.

Messi finished the match but felt some pain in his groin and will sit out Tuesday’s friendly against Morocco in Tangier, the Argentine Football Association said after the game.

The injury, described as a flare up of an existing problem, was not thought to be serious. Midfielder Gonzalo Martinez will also miss the Morocco match with a thigh strain.

Messi took a sabbatical after his country’s last-16 exit from the 2018 finals in Russia but he returned with a clean shaven new look to captain the side in the all-South American affair at Atletico Madrid’s Metropolitano stadium.

Venezuela had only beaten Argentina once in 23 previous encounters, but they got the perfect start after five minutes when Rondon brought down a long pass inside the box and crashed a shot past keeper Franco Armani.

Rondon should have made it two with a header in the 40th but the second goal was only moments away as Murillo took advantage of a quick free kick to scamper to the edge of the box and curl a lovely right-foot shot into the far corner of the net.

Lautaro Martinez finished off a superb counter attack to pull Argentina back into the game after 59 minutes but their hopes were short lived and Venezuela’s Josef Martinez made it 3-1 from the penalty spot with a quarter of an hour remaining.

“In the first half we created chances but they scored twice when we made mistakes,” said Lautaro Martinez. “In the second half we did well and moved the ball about but they got that penalty. We need to keep improving.”

 Argentina face Morocco in Tangier on Tuesday, while Venezuela’s next face Catalonia in Girona on Monday.

Meanwhile The coach of Venezuela’s national soccer team said on Friday he had offered to resign after meeting with opposition leader Juan Guaido’s envoy to Spain, in the midst of a power struggle between Guaido and socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

“We have been living through very complicated times, and we are very politicized,” Dudamel told reporters after the game. “We respectfully received the visit of the ambassador, Mr Antonio Ecarri … just as we have received the ambassador of President Maduro.”

Colombia beat Japan 1-0 in Yokohama and South Korea beat Bolivia 1-0 in Ulsan in friendlies.

Radamel Falcao converted a second-half penalty after a handball by Takehiro Tomiyasu, to give Carlos Queiroz a win in his first match as Colombia coach.

Colombia earned a measure of revenge for losing to Japan in the World Cup pool stage last year, although both teams advanced, and Queiroz also earned some revenge as his eight-year tenure in charge of Iran was ended by Japan in January in the Asian Cup semifinals.

Japan failed to find the target despite 17 attempts in its first game since losing the Asian Cup final to Qatar.

Japan, joining Colombia at the Copa America in June in Brazil, get another taste of South American action on Tuesday against Bolivia.

South Korea struggled to make their domination count against Bolivia. Son Heung-min wasted several chances before a header by Lee Chung-yong scored the winner with five minutes remaining.

The Koreans welcome Colombia to Seoul on Tuesday.

Mexico scored three second-half goals in quick succession to defeat Chile 3-1 and give new manager Tata Martino a winning start to his tenure. Mexico’s Raul Jimenez broke the scoreless game open when he converted a penalty kick in the 52nd minute in front of a crowd of more than 41,000 at the friendly in San Diego.

Hector Moreno headed home a corner kick in the 64th minute and Hirving Lozano chipped a shot over the Chilean goalkeeper’s head less than a minute later to put the contest out of Chile’s reach.

The win is the first for the 56-year-old Argentine Martino, who led Atlanta United to the MLS Cup last season before being named as Mexico’s head coach in January.

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