Lionel Messi scored two goals and was twice accosted by fans running on the field as Argentina extended its unbeaten streak to 35 matches over three years by beating Jamaica 3-0 on Tuesday night in its next-to-last World Cup warmup match.
Julian Alvarez put Argentina ahead in the 13th minute. Messi entered in the 55th and increased his career total to 90 goals in 164 international appearances.
The six-time world player of the year, three months past his 35th birthday, scored on a 23-yard left-foot shot in the 86th minute off a give-and-go with Giovani Lo Celso, then got another goal on a free kick three minutes later after he was pulled down by Adrian Mariappa just outside the penalty area.
A fan sprinted onto the field in the 65th minute and was quickly knocked over and surrounded by security when he neared Messi, who stood and watched the spectator being subdued at his feet. Messi was approached again by a fan after his first goal as security again responded.
Messi scored four goals in Argentina’s two World Cup warmups this month, giving him 16 career goals in the U.S.
Fans erupted in applause less than a minute into the second half when Messi walked with teammates to a corner and started to warm up. A large percentage of the crowd appeared more focused on Messi stretching than they did on the action on the field, and fans stood and made the stadium rumble when he entered for Lautaro Martinez and took the captain’s armband from Angel Di Maria.
Messi, who won his first senior title for Argentina at last year’s Copa America, still has more speed and quicker acceleration than most and his addition energized Argentina in the second half. He also forced Andre Blake to make a pair of diving saves.
There appeared to be a full house at 25,000-capacity Red Bull Arena, and the crowd, many in blue-and-white-striped Albiceleste jerseys, made it feel like an Argentina home game. Public address announcements were primarily in Spanish and ribbon boards flashed “Vamos Argentina!”
A fan is tackled as he tries to take a picture of Argentina’s player Lionel Messi during the second half of an international friendly match against Jamaica on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in Harrison, N.J.
| Photo Credit: AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez
Alvarez put Argentina ahead after Nicolas Tagliafico passed from the flank to Martínez, who spun around Leon Bailey to open space and centred to the 22-year-old Álvarez. He slotted past Blake for his second goal in 11 international appearances.
Heading to its 13th straight World Cup, Argentina seeks to add to the championships it won in 1978 with Mario Kempes and 1986 with Diego Maradona. Argentina has one remaining friendly, against the United Arab Emirates on November 16 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. At the World Cup in Qatar, Argentina opens against Saudi Arabia, which tied the United States 0-0 in an exhibition Tuesday and then plays Mexico and Poland.
Argentina has 25 wins, including one on penalty kicks, and 10 draws since a 2-0 loss to Brazil at the Copa América on July 2, 2019.
Coach Lionel Scaloni made eight changes from the starting lineup in Friday’s 3-0 win over 80th-ranked Honduras at Miami Gardens, Florida, inserting Di Maria and Giovani Lo Celso. Emiliano Martínez replaced Geronimo Rulli.
The Reggae Boyz, who finished sixth among eight nations in the final round of the North and Central American and Caribbean region, played in jerseys without names, in contrast to Argentina. Jamaica started the first-choice lineup in its first match under new coach Heimir Hallgrimsson that included Premier Leaguers Michail Antonio, Leon Bailey and Bobby Decordova-Reid and Blake, a Philadelphia Union standout.