BUENOSAIRES (Reuters) – Argentina showed once again how reliant they are on Lionel Messi as the Barcelona forward scored a hat-trick in their 4-0 World Cup warm-up win over Haiti on Tuesday.
With Javier Mascherano making his 143rd appearance to put him one ahead of Javier Zanetti as Argentina’s most capped player, Messi got the opener from the penalty spot after 17 minutes.
He doubled their lead 12 minutes into the second half with a simple tap-in after the goalkeeper could only parry a header, scored Argentina’s third after 65 minutes, and then set up Sergio Aguero to make it four just two minutes later.
Argentina failed to add to their tally but should have been further ahead against Haiti, whose sole appearance at the World Cup finals came in 1974 and are ranked 108th in the world, 103 places below them in the world rankings.
“More than the result we were able to say goodbye to our fans and show that we are going to Russia with hope,” Messi said.
“We’re not going as favourites because we had a complicated time in the qualifiers, but we are training well and we will give it our all.”
Aguero was fit again after a knee injury but began the game on the bench, with Gonzalo Higuain and Angel Di Maria starting up front alongside Messi.
However, both men failed to shine and instead it was Aguero and Boca Juniors’ Christian Pavon who staked their claim for a World Cup place when they came on after an hour.
Argentina now fly to Barcelona to prepare for World Cup matches against Iceland on June 16, Croatia on June 21 and Nigeria on June 26.
(Reporting by Ramiro Scandolo, writing by Andrew Downie; Editing by Peter Rutherford)