No Messi, no worries as Argentina defeat Guatemala

Gonzalo Martinez Source: EPA

Giovanni Simeone and fellow debutant Gonzalo Martinez scored on their bows in the absence of Argentina superstar Lionel Messi in LA.

Messi was not included in Argentina's squad as the five-time Ballon d'Or winner and Barcelona superstar is believed to be considering his international future following a tumultuous World Cup campaign which saw Argentina knocked out in the final 16

Jorge Sampaoli lost his job as a result but interim boss Lionel Scaloni fielded a new-look line-up and reaped the benefits, albeit against minnows Guatemala in Los Angeles on Saturday.

Debutant Gonzalo Martinez, Giovani Lo Celso and Simeone – the son of Atletico Madrid head coach and former Argentina midfielder Diego – scored their maiden goals in a one-sided first half at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Mauro Icardi and Paolo Dybala were on the bench for Argentina's first match since their loss to France at the World Cup, with Simeone, Martinez, Exequiel Palacios and goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli making their bows.

Argentina and Guatemala were separated by 135 positions in the FIFA rankings and the gulf in class was evident as the South American giants dominated.

Ramiro Funes Mori spurned a great chance to open the scoring in the 15th minute when his powerful header sailed wide of the post, while Cristian Pavon and Polacios also came close for Argentina.

Argentina eventually made the breakthrough approaching the half-hour mark thanks to Martinez, who stepped up and converted a penalty after Lo Celso's shot struck the hand of Elias Vasquez.

It was one-way traffic as Lo Celso – on loan at Real Betis from French champions Paris Saint-Germain – made it 2-0 with a powerful and low effort from outside of the area.

Simeone got in on the act a minute before half-time after Guatemala were dispossessed and the 23-year-old stepped away from his opponent before firing a shot across goalkeeper Paulo Motta.

There were multiple substitutions in the second half and it unsurprisingly impacted the rhythm and flow of the match, with Argentina failing to add to the scoreline.

Argentina will face a much sterner test when they play South American rivals Colombia in New Jersey on Tuesday, while Guatemala are scheduled to meet Ecuador in Illinois.

Source Omnisport