Lionel Scaloni was happy with what he saw from Lionel Messi as Argentina prepare to face Peru in World Cup qualifying on Tuesday.

Amid concerns over an ankle injury, Messi played in Argentina's 1-1 draw with Paraguay on Thursday, having a goal ruled out in the second half.

Argentina coach Scaloni said he was pleased with Messi, who is set to make his 142nd international appearance – to go equal with Brazil great Cafu for the fifth most by a South American.

"On a performance level, Leo played a good game," he told a news conference.

"We were unlucky that they didn't validate the goal because it had been a great play."

Scaloni added: "I saw him well and he has no problem, that's the important thing."

Argentina will seek to extend their unbeaten run in qualifiers against Peru to 16 matches, but Scaloni also wanted to send his well wishes to Javier Mascherano.

Mascherano, the former Barcelona and Liverpool star who has the most caps in Argentina's history, announced his retirement on Sunday.

"I want to emphasise the retirement of Javier Mascherano and his new life that begins from now on. I send him a big hug," Scaloni said.

"He was an emblem of Argentine football and I wish him to do his best and that whatever he decides to do now, he does it with the same passion with which he used to play."

Meanwhile, Peru coach Ricardo Gareca – whose side have collected just one point from their opening three qualifiers – acknowledged the challenge awaiting his team.

"We pay attention to the strength of the rivals and logically it is a challenge to try to counteract the strengths of the teams that we face," he said.

"Argentina not only has Messi, but they have many good players in all their lines and we will have to play a great game to neutralise them."

Lionel Scaloni called for greater consistency with the VAR after Argentina were denied a winner against Paraguay.

Nicolas Gonzalez cancelled out Angel Romero's penalty at La Bombonera on Thursday and Argentina thought they had a third straight win to begin World Cup qualifying when Lionel Messi scored in the second half.

However, the goal was ruled out after a VAR check for a foul that started Argentina's passing build-up, and Scaloni's men were held as they moved onto seven points from three World Cup 2022 qualifiers.

But the Argentina coach wants to see greater consistency from the VAR after his side were denied a winner.

"I think that in some way it is necessary to seek to unify the issue of the VAR," Scaloni told a news conference, via Argentina's Twitter.

"I am not talking in good or bad faith, but to unify criteria."

After a slow start, Argentina dominated following Romero's opener from the penalty spot for Paraguay.

Argentina have won just two of their past eight qualifiers against Paraguay, who held on for a point in Buenos Aires.

Scaloni was satisfied with his team's performance and said they were dominant for long periods.

"In the first 15 minutes the team did not go well. After the penalty I think it was all ours, honestly," he said.

"The team reacted, created situations, did what it had to do. We achieved a draw."

Scaloni added: "We are leaving with a bittersweet taste because Argentina did everything to win.

"In the second half, we put the rival behind. We must also value the attitude of the team, which always believed in achieving victory."

Argentina continue their qualifying campaign with a trip to Lima to face Peru on Tuesday.

Lionel Messi has been declared fit for Argentina's 2022 World Cup qualifiers against Paraguay and Peru by Lionel Scaloni.

It had been reported that Messi was a doubt for Thursday's meeting with Paraguay at La Bombonera after reporting for duty with an ankle issue.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner started Barcelona's 5-2 victory over Real Betis on Saturday among the substitutes but came on at half-time and scored twice.

Barca assistant coach Alfred Schreuder said the decision was made because Messi was "not fresh", but Scaloni put any lingering concerns over his fitness to bed.

"Leo trained with us normally. He has been experiencing discomfort in his ankle but it does not prevent him from playing, so for us he is fit and available," Scaloni told a news conference on Wednesday.

"We'll see if anything changes tomorrow, but in principle he's ready to play.

"The truth is that we have had quite a few problems. We still do not have every player. [Lucas] Martinez Quarta just arrived and we will see if he can train with the group this afternoon, and the rest of those who trained differently for various reasons, we hope today to see how they are so we can define the team for tomorrow.

"Without a doubt, it was a very unusual selection – the most difficult we have had. It's typical of what we are experiencing with the number of games being played and the rush there is. We hope to have them all."

Angel Di Maria returned to the Argentina set-up for the first time since last year's Copa America and Scaloni explained the reason for the absence of the Paris Saint-Germain attacker for the opening round of qualifiers in October.

"We had Nicolas Gonzalez and [Giovani] Lo Celso, who got injured after being called up. I would have been in favour of calling up Di Maria, but with everything that was happening it did not seem fair and respectful when he would only have arrived for the second game," said Scaloni.

"This time, Nico Gonzalez had very few minutes, Lo Celso had not got a rhythm and we thought we were not going to make the mistake of not bringing him in again.

"My relationship with him is perfect. We are happy to have him and he is training very well."

Lautaro Martinez lauded Argentina's character after a 2-1 win over Bolivia in World Cup qualifying on Tuesday.

Joaquin Correa scored a 79th-minute winner for Lionel Scaloni's men, who made it two wins from two to begin their qualifying campaign.

It marked Argentina's first victory in Bolivia since 2005 as they claimed an important win in the altitude of La Paz.

Martinez, who became the first Argentina player not called Lionel Messi to score in a World Cup qualifier since November 2016 when he cancelled out Marcelo Martins Moreno's opener, was delighted.

"We knew the game was going to be like this. I think this team today showed a lot of heart and a lot of head," the Inter forward said.

"We are very happy."

Martinez added: "We had thought about what this game meant for us because of the history.

"We are not going to deny that it is difficult to play here, it changes a lot."

Martinez also set up Correa's winner as Argentina backed up their narrow victory over Ecuador.

Argentina coach Scaloni was also pleased with his substitutes, with Correa among them as he netted his second international goal.

"With the changes we always try to improve," he said.

"They gave us freshness and they entered very well."

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni has compared playing football in La Paz to "drowning" as he braces his team for the challenge posed by competing at altitude in Tuesday's clash with Bolivia.

La Albiceleste will be hoping to build on their winning start to World Cup qualification on, having beaten Ecuador 1-0 on Friday.

But up next is one of the trickiest tasks on the South American football calendar; getting a result in La Paz.

It is situated roughly 3,650 metres (11,975ft) above sea level, making La Paz the highest capital city on Earth and consequentially causing some visiting athletes to struggle due to the air pressure.

Unacclimatised individuals are known to suffer from breathlessness much faster at such altitudes, giving Bolivia a significant advantage in some home matches.

Never has this been more applicable than when Bolivia thrashed Argentina 6-1 in 2009, despite the visitors having the likes of Lionel Messi, Carlos Tevez, Javier Zanetti and Javier Mascherano in their starting XI.

Argentina's last trip to La Paz in 2017 resulted in a 2-0 defeat, and with their squad vastly different this time around, Scaloni – who played in their most recent away win in Bolivia 15 years ago – is preparing the team for a gruelling challenge.

"I am going to talk about it with the players one by one," Scaloni said. "We are going to evaluate everyone.

"Before we get to the pitch, we will not realise how players react. Coming two days before the match, the idea was to notice [the effects on individual players].

"We need the players at 100 per cent. If there is a player who is not at 100 per cent, I will speak and make the best decision for the team. The important thing is the hour and a half before the game.

"There is no formula, whether you come the day before the game or two days before. You have to spend 20 days training to have a physical condition equal to theirs.

"Drowning. All the players are going to drown. The issue is the feeling that each one has. We are doing everything possible so that they can get to the game in the best way."

Scaloni's plan for the match will seemingly hinge heavily on captain Messi, with the Argentina coach emphasising the importance of retaining possession and exploiting set-pieces.

"I spoke with everyone and with Lionel Messi in particular," he continued. "There are players who suffer more, others who suffer less, due to physical and training issues.

"We prepare the game in a way that we think can go well. It is a football match. We have a clear idea, we transmit it. The important thing is the journey of the ball.

"We have to use all our weapons. We try to take away the anxiety. We have enough to come here and be at 3,000-odd metres. The more you have the ball, the better.

"When we won in 2005, we scored goals from set pieces. They were specific situations and the game was defined there. We emphasise that."

Argentina and Bolivia have met 20 times in World Cup qualifiers – all five of the latter's victories coming at home.

Similarly, Argentina have only won on three of their 10 trips to La Paz and that 6-1 defeat 11 years ago is the joint-largest defeat in their history.

Lionel Scaloni sensed anxiety in the Argentina ranks as his team began their Qatar 2022 World Cup mission with a 1-0 win over Ecuador.

Victory came courtesy of Lionel Messi's early penalty after Lucas Ocampos was impeded, with Argentina far from their best at La Bombonera.

A home game in Buenos Aires behind closed doors was an uncomfortable way to start the road to the finals, and Argentina's next game will be no easier as they travel to La Paz to face Bolivia on Tuesday.

Yet Scaloni, who pointed to seven players making their first appearances in World Cup qualifying games, was just happy to get the victory.

"We won, which is the most important thing to start a competition of this calibre," he said. "The conditions weren't easy, with a fast pitch and no fans, added to the difficulties of not having been together for so long.

"There are things to highlight and others to improve. I'm left with the desire, with the sacrifice. We will have time to work. The important thing was to get the result forward.

"There were many players who debuted in qualifiers today. It's not easy to play with this shirt and anxiety is typical of that situation.

"We were clear that this could happen because it was the first game. They took a great step when they made their debut and won."

Bolivia scored a 2-0 home win over Argentina in qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, and going to high altitude next week will be a serious test for Scaloni's team.

"We're going to see how the players recover and then we will think about Bolivia. We know that it is a game with conditions different from all the others," Scaloni said.

Argentina are now unbeaten in their last eight matches, while Messi took his tally to 71 goals for La Albiceleste.

Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni insisted superstar captain Lionel Messi is happy ahead of the country's World Cup qualifier against Ecuador.

Messi's Argentina will begin their World Cup qualifying campaign on Thursday, after the coronavirus pandemic forced the road to Qatar 2022 to be postponed in March.

Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi is in the squad following a turbulent off-season, having handed in a transfer request at embattled LaLiga giants Barcelona.

Asked about Messi on the eve of the qualifier in Buenos Aires, Scaloni told reporters: "I spoke with Leo when his conflict with Barcelona was resolved and I noticed him calm and serene.

"Now we have had a fairly long talk and he told me that he is happy to be here and that he is better at his club.

"From a distance, we only wanted him to resolve the situation so that he could start playing and get in shape. For me it is positive that he has stayed because he has started to play and knows the environment.

"As for personal decisions, we do not get in or invade the players' spaces."

Scaloni, whose Argentina have not played since November, added: "Leo will always be a forward no matter how much he sometimes stands at nine and sometimes as second forward. What we try is to always have three options up and tomorrow's game will be the same.

"I don't think Leo has changed so much his way of playing or his position on the court, in the end he is a forward and is always in those positions."

Lionel Messi headlines Argentina's preliminary 30-man squad for next month's CONMEBOL World Cup qualifiers against Ecuador and Bolivia.

World Cup qualifying for the 2022 showpiece in Qatar was due to begin in March, but the coronavirus pandemic forced a delay until October.

Now, Lionel Scaloni's Argentina – who have not played since November – will kick-off their campaign against Ecuador in Buenos Aires on October 8 before travelling to Bolivia five days later.

Argentina and Barcelona captain Messi is joined in the preliminary squad by Juventus star Paulo Dybala and Inter forward Lautaro Martinez.

Uncapped duo Facundo Medina and Nehuen Perez have also been included, while former Arsenal goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez could make his debut after completing a move to Aston Villa.

 

Argentina squad: Agustin Marchesin (Porto), Emiliano Martinez (Aston Villa), Juan Musso (Udinese); Marcos Acuna (Sevilla), Leonardo Balerdi (Marseille), Juan Foyth (Tottenham), Walter Kannemann (Gremio), Facundo Medina (Lens), Nicolas Otamendi (Manchester City), Nehuen Perez (Atletico Madrid), German Pezzella (Fiorentina), Renzo Saravia (Internacional), Nicolas Tagliafico (Ajax); Joaquin Correa (Lazio), Rodrigo De Paul (Udinese), Nicolas Dominguez (Stuttgart), Alejandro Gomez (Atalanta), Giovani Lo Celso (Tottenham), Alexis Mac Allister (Brighton and Hove Albion), Lucas Ocampos (Sevilla), Exequiel Palacios (Bayer Leverkusen), Leandro Paredes (Paris Saint-Germain), Guido Rodriguez (Real Betis); Lucas Alario (Bayer Leverkusen), Paulo Dybala (Juventus), Lautaro Martinez (Inter), Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Cristian Pavon (LA Galaxy), Giovanni Simeone (Cagliari).

The one-year postponement of the Copa America gives Argentina time they must use wisely to avoid squandering probably the most precious asset ever granted to any international team in football history.

A yawning gap remains in Lionel Messi's glittering collection of honours. At club level, the Barcelona superstar has won it all, won it again and won it some more just for good measure. For Argentina, he is yet to lift a major honour.

A sixth Ballon d'Or and a host of typically imperious performances this season show Messi is going nowhere just yet, but he turns 33 this month. His own 'Last Dance' is nearing.

Realistically, the rearranged 2021 Copa America that they will co-host with Colombia and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar represent his final shots at glory for La Albiceleste, with the nagging sense his best chance to emulate the likes of Pele and Diego Maradona with a defining triumph at the highest level might already have passed him by.

 

THE GOLDEN GENERATION

Over recent years, Messi has frequently appeared wearied as a man carrying the weight of his team on his shoulders for club and country.

Of course, this was not always the case. At Barcelona he was the shimmering jewel in Pep Guardiola's slick and sublime masterpiece before starring as part of Luis Enrique's turbo-charged MSN forward line.

Argentina's more forlorn efforts of late make it easy to forget what a defining generation of talent Messi once spearheaded.

Any heavyweight football nation collecting back-to-back Olympic gold medals, as Argentina did in 2004 and 2008, would reasonably expect the senior honours to follow – with or without arguably the greatest of all time at their disposal.

Names from those podiums in Athens and Beijing trip off the tongue. Javier Mascherano, Carlos Tevez, Javier Saviola, Pablo Zabaleta, Fernando Gago, Ever Banega, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Angel Di Maria and Sergio Aguero are all Olympic champions.

At the 2010 World Cup, the fairytale combination of Messi and the Messiah – Maradona inimitably entertaining but evidently ill-cast as head coach – fell to Germany in the quarter-finals.

Die Mannschaft also beat them in 2014 – this time as Mario Gotze scored the only goal in the final during extra time. Alejandro Sabella's steadying hand brought them to the brink of sporting immortality and Messi was named player of the tournament, despite some underwhelming showings by his own standards.

NEAR MISSES, RETIREMENT AND SHAMBLES

Gerardo Martino managed not to win a major trophy when he led Barcelona in 2013-14 and, unfortunately for Messi, history repeated during his tenure with the national team.

Gonzalo Higuain missed a glorious chance in the World Cup final and he and Banega erred from the spot as Chile won the 2015 Copa America in a penalty shoot-out.

Against the same opponents at the Copa America Centenario 12 months later, Messi himself failed amid further heartache from 12 yards.

As emotions ran high in the aftermath, the number 10 announced his retirement from international football, with rumours other stars would follow suit due to disaffection with the Argentine Football Association.

By the time Messi returned for a 3-0 World Cup qualifying defeat to Brazil that November, Edgardo Bauza's tenure as head coach was already on the rocks.

Jorge Sampaoli replaced him and Argentina needed an utterly majestic hat-trick from their talisman away to Ecuador to snatch a place at Russia 2018.

Perhaps they shouldn't have bothered.

Having brought Argentina to their knees while in charge of Chile, Sampaoli inadvertently did the same again during a shambling turn ended by eventual champions France in the last 16. There was a near revolt after a group-stage thrashing from Croatia and the coach left with his reputation in tatters.

LIONEL, LIONEL AND LAUTARO

Star names such as Martino and Sampaoli not working out probably help the cause of the unheralded Lionel Scaloni, who emerged from the rubble of Russia to take temporary and then full charge.

The 2019 Copa America got off to a similarly inauspicious start, but they scrambled out of the group and were arguably a little unlucky to lose 2-0 to hosts and eventual winners Brazil in the semis.

A feisty third-place match against Chile was won 2-1 thanks to goals form Aguero and Paulo Dybala, despite Messi bizarrely getting sent for being repeatedly butted by Gary Medel.

An indignant post-match interview brought a four-game ban, although a more vocal Messi leading through words as well as deeds is a pleasing development. In his absence, 4-0 and 6-1 wins over Mexico and Ecuador suggested brighter times ahead with a younger core – even if a diet of friendlies this season makes progress a little hard to judge.

At centre-forward, where Argentina's surplus of riches makes their lack of reward so embarrassing, Lautaro Martinez looks to have established himself as the new number one ahead of Messi's great friend Aguero.

Since Scaloni took charge, the Inter star has nine goals in 13 starts – averaging one every 109.6 minutes and outstripping his expected goals (xG) figure of 6.4. Messi has five goals at 160.4 per minute from an xG of 6.3 over the same period.

European club form coming back home to the national team has not always been a given during the Messi years, so it is encouraging to see Martinez scoring at a faster rate under Scaloni than he has during an acclaimed campaign at San Siro (11 Serie A goals at one every 152 minutes). Aguero's 16 Manchester City goals have arrived every 87.6 Premier League minutes in 2019-20, but his strikes come every 201.7 minutes in the Scaloni era.

THE NEW GENERATION

Aguero still looks highly likely to have some role to play in trying to right a journey of heartache he has charted alongside Messi in blue and white. Others have not been spared as Scaloni quietly shapes a team in his own image. Moulding the ramshackle embarrassment of two years into a compact and hard-working unit necessitated high-profile casualties

Angel Di Maria has not added to his 102 caps since being dropped to the bench during the Copa. Argentina's all-action midfield creator is now Rodrigo de Paul.

One of Scaloni's dependable in a new-look engine room alongside Di Maria's Paris Saint-Germain colleague Leandro Paredes, De Paul's 81 dribbles completed for Udinese were the second most in Serie A last season and his eight assists put him joint fifth alongside Cristiano Ronaldo.

Staying in Serie A, German Pezzella's 60 interceptions, 155 clearances, 96 headed clearances and 30 blocks all see the Fiorentina man rank highly. A late bloomer on the international stage, the 28-year-old was named captain against Ecuador – alongside Ajax's left-back dynamo Nicolas Tagliafico – and he might have just enough about him to offset Nicolas Otamendi's frequent reversions to slapstick.

Scaloni still looks light on quality and cover behind an all-star attack, where Lucas Ocampos and Angel Correa are also thrillingly part of the equation. This is where the 12-month delay could really come in handy.

Paredes, De Paul and Pezzella will all be better with another year of their primes under their belts, while Giovani Lo Celso's development under Jose Mourinho at Tottenham will be watched with interest.

Leonardo Balerdi and Exequiel Palacios are each 21 and early in their Bundesliga careers at Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen – two clubs with exceptional records when it comes to developing young talents.

If this more unheralded generation continue to grow in stature, Scaloni might just have a team to let Argentina dream again. After all, their captain isn't bad either.

Lionel Scaloni said playing alongside countryman Lionel Messi is better for Inter star Lautaro Martinez amid growing links to Barcelona.

Martinez has been tipped to swap Serie A side Inter for LaLiga champions Barca in the off-season following his exploits in Italy.

The Argentina international forward scored 16 goals in 31 matches across all competitions before the 2019-20 season was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic.

As speculation grows over Martinez's future, Argentina head coach Scaloni discussed the 22-year-old.

"If he plays with Messi he is better, no doubt. Beyond that later he will have to fight for the position as he did in Inter," Scaloni told TyC Sports.

"We have to be calm. If he changes clubs, maybe he does not have to be the undisputed starter, and it will not affect us, as long as he has a number of minutes that allows him to be in force.

"He has a huge future but still has a lot to give."

With Martinez dominating headlines, Scaloni issued a reminder about Sergio Aguero's exploits for Argentina and Manchester City.

Aguero is City's all-time top scorer as he celebrated his 32nd birthday on Tuesday, while he is third on Argentina's overall goals list with 41.

"Talking so much about Lautaro, it is Sergio who is breaking all the records," added Scaloni. "That is why you have to go calmly and wait for the moment of each one."

Lautaro Martinez will have to earn his place at Barcelona if he leaves Inter, according to Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni.

Martinez has been tipped to swap Serie A side Inter for LaLiga champions Barca in the off-season following his exploits in Italy.

The Argentina international forward scored 16 goals in 31 matches across all competitions before the 2019-20 season was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Scaloni was asked about Martinez's future amid the transfer speculation and the Argentina boss told Radio La Red: "If Lautaro gets to go to Barcelona, ​​I think the coach [Quique Setien] is going to look for a way to start him, he is going to have to sacrifice and earn his place."

"Taking Lautaro out of Inter is not going to be easy… I would like Lautaro Martinez to play, to have continuity," Scaloni added.

"Lautaro has one thing that he runs for him and for his team-mate. He will be the reference striker for the future."

Martinez swapped Racing Club for Inter in 2018 and he has quickly established himself as one of the most sought-after forwards in European football.

He has scored 25 goals in total since joining Inter from Racing Club.

Lautaro Martinez partnering Lionel Messi at Barcelona would benefit Argentina but it will be tough to sign him from Inter, Albiceleste boss Lionel Scaloni acknowledges.

Barca have reportedly earmarked Martinez as the long-term replacement to Luis Suarez, who is now 33, which would see him form a mouth-watering tandem with international team-mate Messi.

Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi himself last week talked up the talents of Martinez, though he was reluctant to discuss any potential deal being struck.

Martinez scored 16 goals in 31 games across all competitions this term prior to the suspension of Serie A due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Scaloni thinks his burgeoning talent would only improve playing regularly with Messi, but says Martinez is already playing for a top team who have little incentive to sell.

Speaking to RTVE, Martinez said: "Lautaro today is the fashionable striker, the one who every big team wants.

"He is already with a big team, which competes equally with other teams and it will be very difficult to get him out of there.

"If Lautaro is lucky enough to go and play with a team-mate like Messi at Barcelona, for us, the more they play together, the better.

"Lautaro is a young player with an incredible future. He is strong and has a great desire to succeed.

"I don't want to interfere, but if he does change clubs, I hope he does well."

 

Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni believes Barcelona captain Lionel Messi is comfortable at the LaLiga champions.

Messi and his future have been the topics of discussion since the Barca superstar's public row with director of football Eric Abidal.

After Abidal suggested some players were not working hard enough prior to Ernesto Valverde's sacking in January, Messi snapped back via social media and it raised doubts over his future at Camp Nou.

Scaloni, however, is not concerned about Argentina skipper and six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi – who is out of contract at the end of the 2020-21 season.

"I see him [Messi] fine," Scaloni told reporters. "The other day, against Real Betis, he was the best player in the field without scoring. He gave the assist and participated of every chance.

"He's fine, he's comfortable, he will have to decide on his future but I think he's comfortable."

"I'm not worried at all," Scaloni continued. "He's comfortable, he's comfortable at the national team and at Barcelona. Then what will come will come, I stay out of it."

Argentina finished third at the 2019 Copa America but Scaloni's side have another chance to be crowned South American champions as co-hosts of this year's tournament alongside Colombia.

Messi is still seeking his first senior title with Argentina, who were runners-up at the 2014 World Cup before losing in back-to-back Copa America finals in 2015 and 2016.

"I think the important thing is to try [to win the Copa America], that he knows we'll try and be protagonists," Scaloni added. "He [Messi] is not the only one that wants to win something with the national team, we all want to win, the coach, his teammates, so well, we'll try and let's hope we can make it."

Argentina are in Group A (South Zone) for the 2020 Copa America, along with Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia and first-time guests Australia.

La Albiceleste will open the tournament against Chile in Buenos Aires on June 12.

Lionel Scaloni hopes the 2020 Copa America is not Lionel Messi's last as he eyes success with Argentina.

Argentina will open next year's tournament against Chile at El Monumental on June 12, it was revealed on Tuesday.

Scaloni hopes 32-year-old Messi, who will again be aiming to win his first senior international trophy, plays beyond the 2020 Copa.

"I don't know if it will be the last. Hopefully not," the Argentina coach told reporters.

"But Argentina need the title, more than just him. Hopefully, don't promise anything, but we'll give the maximum to reach the final."

Argentina, who last won the Copa in 1993, will also face Uruguay, Paraguay, Australia and Bolivia in Group A after their opener against Chile.

Scaloni's men beat Chile in the third-place play-off this year, in a game that saw Messi and Gary Medel sent off.

"It's a nice game to start," he said. "Anyone would have been difficult because the debut is always difficult, but this one has a special feeling.

"Chile has always been difficult for Argentina, especially in recent times. Difficult, but we are fine."

Lionel Scaloni is satisfied with Argentina's progress after a friendly draw against Uruguay on Monday.

Argentina came from behind twice to secure a 2-2 draw in Tel Aviv, where Lionel Messi's stoppage-time penalty cancelled out Luis Suarez's goal after Edinson Cavani and Sergio Aguero had struck earlier.

It extended Argentina's unbeaten run to seven matches as they continued preparations for 2022 World Cup qualifying, which begins next year.

Scaloni is pleased with Argentina's development, although the coach still sees room for improvement.

"At the level of results, we are fine. At the level of the game, it can be improved," he said, via Ole.

"The team feeling is the best we have. The important thing is that the players who play do it well. Some make a difference and others support."

Scaloni acknowledged the challenge awaiting his team, describing the CONMEBOL qualifiers as the toughest in the world.

"Now we have to think about what we did well and what we can correct. What is coming is difficult," he said.

"I spoke with people from Uruguay. It will be difficult in the qualifiers. Those in South America are the most difficult in the world.

"We have a good base."

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