It was far from the test that Colombia will pose next Saturday but Argentina warmed up for the Copa América with a routine win over Nicaragua in San Juan. Lionel Messi and Lautaro Martínez both scored twice as La Albiceleste cruised to a 5-1 win before the squad fly out to Brazil in another attempt to end the trophy drought.
Quite what Lionel Scaloni will have garnered from the match is unclear other than what was already well known – Argentina’s hopes lie on Lionel Messi’s shoulders. A somewhat static first half an hour had seen Matías Suárez hit the post but very little else as flashes of the potential Messi-Lo Celso partnership were produced.
It was no real surprise when indeed it was Giovani Lo Celso who slipped the ball into Messi in the 37th minute for the captain to dance his way round three challenges to open the scoring.
And a minute later it was two, Sergio Agüero drawing a save from Justo Lorente only for Messi to follow in the rebound taking his Argentina tally to 67.
That would be the end of the evening for Messi and Agüero but Lautaro Martínez came off the bench and served Lionel Scaloni with a timely reminder why the Inter youngster might be considered for a starting role up front. A goal-line block denied Lautaro after barely a minute yet the 21-year-old wouldn’t have to wait long. First, drilling in a low shot through a crowded penalty area and later volleying in unmarked at a corner.
The impressive Rodrigo de Paul almost created the hat-trick goal for fellow Racing Club graduate Martínez but ultimately Roberto Pereyra tapped in Argentina’s fifth before a Nicolás Otamendi handball in stoppage time allowed Juan Barrera to slot in a late consolation from the penalty spot.
After two consecutive final defeats Argentina begin their latest Copa América campaign next Saturday in Salvador against Colombia and while spirits in the camp might be high, the tests will get much tougher.