Gonzalo Higuaín’s wonderfully taken goal, signalling that the record-breaking Napoli striker is bringing his outstading form to the Copa América, was perhaps the only good news from Argentina’s victory over Honduras on Friday night in San Juan. Far more concerning was the injury sustained by captain Lionel Messi, who was forced off just after the hour mark with a blow to his lower back.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner was caught with a knee in what appeared a pretty innocuous challenge initially but which quickly sent panic throughout the Argentina camp.
An obviously pained Messi went straight to the dressing room and was replaced by Éver Banega before being sent to hospital for further tests.
Argentina’s medical staff haven’t yet given an estimate on when the 28-year-old will be fit but thankfully the medical exams confirmed that there was no fracture and instead Messi had suffered nothing more than a deep bruise in his lumbar region.
“Messi suffered a trauma to the left side of his lower back and ribcage,” the Argentine Football Association said in a statement.
The Barcelona star was due to fly back to Spain on Saturday to appear before a judge at the Audiencia de Barcelona on June 2nd in order to resolve his ongoing tax issue. However, this flight may be delayed as the medical team have recommended that Messi waits at least 48 hours before travelling.
Honduras ensured that Gerardo Martino’s side had a far more physical warm-up to the Copa América than would have been wanted and despite Argentina dominating large parts of the game, La Albiceleste could not win by a greater margin.
The only goal of the game came on the half hour mark when Ángel Di María broke down the left and although his pass into Higuaín was behind the Napoli striker, the in-form number nine controlled the ball, turned expertly past his marker and clipped the ball over Donis Escober.
It was the first contribution from Higuaín after a frustrating opening in which Argentina failed to take control of the midfield and create any clear openings.
Marcos Rojo and second half substitute Sergio Agüero wasted good opportunities to extend the lead but Argentina held on for victory.
The squad will train in San Juan on Saturday morning before travelling to the United States ahead of their Copa América opener against Chile on June 6th.
Gerardo Martino’s first choice eleven appears clear but they now wait on news if Messi will be fit. The instrumental captain was due to fly directly after his court hearing to join up with the squad but the medical staff will assess in the coming days whether or not he is able to face Chile in a little over a week.
Argentina 1 – 0 Honduras