Messi praises ‘improving’ Argentina after 3-0 rout of Uruguay


Argentina captain Lionel Messi hailed the performance of his team in their 3-0 World Cup Qualifier victory over Uruguay, saying the Albiceleste are relishing a possession-based style of play under manager Lionel Scaloni.

It was a clinical performance by the hosts against Uruguay.

Messi gave the hosts the lead with a chipped effort that appeared to be an intended pass for the onrushing Nicolas Gonzalez. The Fiorentina forward failed to make contact with his outstretched left leg but succeeded in wrong-footing Uruguayan goalkeeper Fernando Muslera as the ball rolled into the far corner. It was his 80th international goal on Monday (IST).

De Paul doubled the lead just before halftime, pouncing on a loose ball to lash home from 10 yards after Lautaro Martinez fluffed an attempt to latch onto Messi’s defense-splitting pass.

Atletico Madrid midfielder Rodrigo de Paul scored one goal and set up another as Argentina edged closer to securing a place at next year’s FIFA World Cup.

Despite having little possession, Uruguay were unlucky not to score as Luis Suarez was twice denied by goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez and also saw a close-range effort rebound off the post, reports Xinhua.

Argentina continued to dominate after the interval, making it 3-0 when Martinez tapped in at the far post after De Paul’s low cross from the left flank.

Uruguay rarely threatened the Albiceleste defense in the second half and looked rudderless in the absence of suspended midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur and injured playmaker Giorgian de Arrascaeta.

Messi was very happy with Argentina’s performance, reports Xinhua.

“I think we are improving a lot in the way we are playing and keeping possession. We’re getting used to having the ball,” the Paris Saint-Germain forward said.

“We knew the results [of the other South American zone qualifiers] and that we had to get six points from our matches here,” he added, alluding to the Albiceleste’s home clash with Peru on Thursday.

Argentina controlled 64% of the total possession against a Celeste outfit that missed Juventus midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur and Flamengo playmaker Giorgian de Arrascaeta because of suspension and a thigh injury, respectively.

Messi singled out Emiliano Martinez for special praise after the Aston Villa goalkeeper made a series of fine saves to deny Luis Suarez in the first half.

“[He] is fundamental. When the pressure is on he always responds,” the 34-year-old said. “He did it again today. We have one of the best goalkeepers in the world and we are making the most of it.”

“Uruguay had clear opportunities to score even though we were in control. That’s the sort of team they are. They can create danger out of nothing.”

The result at El Monumental in Buenos Aires leaves Argentina with 22 points from 10 matches, six points behind leaders Brazil. Uruguay remain fourth with 16 points from 11 outings.

The top four teams will automatically qualify for next year’s World Cup in Qatar while the fifth-ranked side will advance to an intercontinental playoff.

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