SINGAPORE: Argentina shrugged off Lionel Messi’s controversial absence by thumping six goals past minnows Singapore in a one-sided friendly on Tuesday.
Messi’s pre-game departure —reportedly to prepare for his wedding—prompted grumbles among fans but Argentina were not short of firepower as six different players found the net.
Defender Federico Fazio and Carlos Correa scored in the first half before Alejandro Gomez, Leandro Paredes, Lucas Alario and Angel di Maria poured on the goals in the second half.
Coach Jorge Sampaoli said the display, on top of last week’s 1-0 friendly win against Brazil in Melbourne, gave him hope for Argentina’s World Cup qualifying campaign.
The two-time world champions lie fifth in the South American group, outside the automatic qualifying spots with games against Uruguay, Venezuela, Peru and Ecuador to come.
“We aren’t just (a group of) 25 people but a lot more, especially against the likes of Uruguay which will pave the way for our qualification to the next World Cup,” Sampaoli said.
“This enthusiasm is going to fill the people of Argentina up, like those who woke up early to watch the game.
“So we can deliver the opportunity and show them that the team is alive and will fight. We are definitely going to need a lot more people wearing our Argentinian colours with what lies ahead.”
Argentina, who were also missing Gonzalo Higuain and Nicolas Otamendi, were in control from the outset but it took until the 24th minute before Fazio flicked in a header from a corner.
Argentina grabbed their second five minutes later, with Sevilla striker Carlos Correa tapping in at the near post from a cross from Juventus’s Paulo Dybala.
Argentina cut loose after the hour-mark, scoring their last four goals—while outclassed Singapore, 159th in the FIFA rankings, didn’t manage a shot on target all night.
“If the structure worked hand in hand with ball domination and chance creation, we’d be talking about a much larger score margin, very rarely seen in football,” Sampaoli said.
The absence of Messi had prompted anger with social media users demanding ticket refunds, while Singapore’s head coach V. Sundramoorthy called his withdrawal “unfortunate”.