Messi to feature against Nigeria for the seventh time

Argentina Football Association has confirmed that the Lionel Messi inspired World Cup winning team will face the Super Eagles of Nigeria at the Coliseum in Los Angeles on March 26.

The match will come up four days after Argentina would have played against El Salvador at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

This will be the seventh time that the legendary Lionel Messi will feature in a football match with Nigeria after the U20 World Cup tie in 2005, Beijing 2008 gold medal match, a friendly match in World Cup matches in 2010, 2014 and 2018 as well as a friendly match in Dhaka in September 2011.

The two matches were originally to hold in China but were moved out as the Chinese sporting authorities reportedly cancelled friendly matches featuring the World Cup champions amid a backlash against Lionel Messi’s failure to play in an Inter Miami match in Hong Kong.

Argentina were scheduled to play Nigeria in the Chinese city of Hangzhou before facing Cote d’Ivoire 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, Japan.

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

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