Argentina switch friendlies to US after China cancels matches amid Messi fallout

football23 February 2024 06:38| © Reuters
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Lionel Messi © Gallo Images

Argentina will play two matches in the United States next month after Chinese sporting authorities cancelled friendlies featuring the World Cup champions amid a backlash against Lionel Messi's failure to play in an Inter Miami match in Hong Kong.

Argentina's FA said on Thursday Lionel Scaloni's side will face El Salvador at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia on March 22 before taking on Nigeria at the Coliseum in Los Angeles on March 26.

Argentina were scheduled to play Nigeria in the Chinese city of Hangzhou before facing the Ivory Coast in Beijing but Messi's failure to take the field for Inter Miami in Hong Kong against a local League XI earlier this month caused widespread anger among fans.

Messi was deemed unfit to play in the friendly, which drew 40 000 fans and saw some spectators paying up to nearly HK$5 000 ($640) for a ticket.

Chinese state media, Hong Kong politicians and fans reacted angrily three days later when the 36-year-old Argentine forward came off the bench to play in a friendly match in Tokyo against Vissel Kobe.

In a video posted on Weibo, one of China's largest social media platforms, on Monday, eight-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi said his absence from the match had been caused by an inflamed adductor.