Lionel Messi scored a brace in the first half as Argentina beat Nicaragua 5-1 in a warm-up match in San Juan before Copa America 2019, to be held in Brazil. Lautaro Martinez of Inter Milan scored a brace as well while Watford's Roberto Pereyra scored the fifth goal and Juan Barrera of Nicaragua got one back from the spot in the dying moments of the match.
The Central Americans, who are ranked 129th in the world, will participate in this month's Gold Cup tournament while Argentina will battle it out in Brazil.
The Argentine players were left frustrated in the initial stages of the match as their opponents were not giving them many chances to score. Though Messi failed to convert a genuine chance on the 12th minute of the match, he was the man who opened the scoring for his team in the 37th minute. The five-time Ballon d'Or champion cut through three defenders and placed the ball past Nicaragua goalkeeper Justo Lorente to open the scoring. He scored the second one when the goalkeeper parried away a shot from Aguero and the champion striker reacted like a poacher and placed it in from the deflection giving the two-time World Champions a two-goal lead.
Messi and Aguero were substituted in the second half by their coach Lionel Scaloni, who was appointed as the head coach of Argentina after Jorge Sampaoli was sacked following a disastrous performance at the World Cup.
Lautaro Martinez, the Inter Milan forward, scored twice in the 63rd and 73rd minute of the second half to make it 4-0 by coming off the substitutes bench and give coach Scaloni food for thought.
Watford's Roberto Pereyra made it five with nine minutes remaining while Nicaragua's deserved consolation came through Juan Barrera's late penalty.
Messi has lost three Copa finals in 2007, 2015 and 2016 and the last time Argentina won an international title was in the same competition back in 1993 when the forward was just six years old. They have reached four of the last five finals. This is probably the last time for Messi to give a shot at winning the Copa as he will be 36 years old during the next edition of the tournament.
Argentina will play Colombia in Salvador before taking on Paraguay and Asian champions Qatar in Group B.