Baptism by fire
Messi sizzles as Boyz lose 0-3 to Argentina
Argentina’s Lionel Messi (centre) controls the ball between Jamaica’s Damion Lowe (left) and Adrian Mariappa during the international friendly football match between Argentina and Jamaica at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, on September 27, 2022. (Photo: AFP)

Heimir Hallgrímsson’s tenure with Jamaica senior men's football team began on an expected losing note as his Reggae Boyz went down 3-0 to Argentina in their international friendly match at Red Bull Arena in New Jersey last night.

The magician himself, Lionel Messi, led from the front with a brace in the 86th and 88th minutes to taking his international tally to 90 goals, after 22-year-old Julian Alvarez got the show going in the 13th minute as the South America giants Argentina extended their unbeaten run to 35 games.

That record adds impetus to why the number-four ranked Argentina, who last won the Fifa World Cup tournament in 1986, are one of the favourites to win this year's global showpiece to be held in Qatar from November 20 to December 18.

While this was an opportunity for the Icelander to assess and familiarise himself with his 62nd-ranked Boyz, the scoreline may have been worse than he would have anticipated.

Still, the Boyz held their own for the most part before Lionel Scaloni unleashed Messi on a tiring backline which, much like the tens of thousands in the stadium, may have been starstruck.

The Jamaicans started positively, showing some attacking intent in the early exchanges, but soon struggled to track the slippery movements of the Argentinians, particularly down the right channel where the nippy Angel Di Maria operated.

They later found themselves further on the back foot when a neat build up orchestrated by Nicolas Tagliafico unlocked the Boyz's defence for Lautaro Martinez, who unselfishly played through Alvarez and the young Manchester City striker made no mistake from close range, beating the dive of Andre Blake.

Argentina continued to dominate possession and not surprisingly found a few more openings in a very disorganised Reggae Boyz defence, but failed to capitalise.

Giovani Lo Celso should have doubled the lead in the 19th but drove a left-footed shot wide, despite having adequate space and time to aim and pull the trigger.

And a minute past the half-hour mark, Guido Rodriguez, who was left unmarked at the far post, also fired his effort wide of the target.

Still one goal down, the Boyz gradually regained confidence and almost pulled one back in the 40th when Shamar Nicholson tried to pick out an open Michail Antonio but placed too much weight on the pass.

With the score remaining unchanged at the break, the Boyz, like they did at the start, showed some purpose on the resumption but were still unable to unlock Argentina's defence for a proper shot on goal.

Things got worse when Messi entered the contest in the 55th, and the 35-year-old wasted little time in making his presence felt.

He first rounded defenders for a left-footed shot, which was kept out by Blake at his near post.

However, he was not to be denied in the 86th when he fired home from the top of the 18-yard box, beating Blake to his right, and two minutes later buried one of his signature free kicks from inside the arc to cap the win.

Jamaica 0, Argentina 3 - J Alvarez (13), Messi (86, 88)

Teams: Jamaica - Andre Blake, Amari'i Bell, Leon Bailey, Daniel Johnson, Ravel Morrison, Shamar Nicholson (Andre Gray 69), Bobby Reid, Damion Lowe, Michail Antonio (Jamal Lowe 87), Adrian Mariappa, Javain Brown (Kaheem Parris 79)

Subs not used: Kemar Foster, Jahmali Waite, Jamoi Topey, Ricardo Thomas, Curtis Tilt, Dillon Barnes, Maliek Howell, Kevon Lambert

Booked: Morrison (10)

Argentina - Emiliano Martinez, Nicolas Tagliafico, Gonzalo Montiel (Nahuel Molina 79), Julian Alvarez (Carlos Joaquin Correa 79), Angel Di Maria (Lisandro Martinez 79), Cristian Romero, Alexis Mac Allister (Rodrigo De Paul 71), Guido Rodriguez (Enzo Fernandes 55), Nicolas Otamendi, Giovani Lo Celso, Lautaro Martinez (Lionel Messi 55)

Subs not used: Franco Armani, Geronimo Rulli, Leandro Paredes, German Pezzella, Thiago Almada, Nehuen Perez, Fazundo Medina, Angel Correa

Booked: None

Argentina's Giovani Lo Celso slide-tackles Jamaica's forward Michail Antonio (top) during the first half of an international friendly match in Harrison, New Jersey, Tuesday night.(Photo: AP)
Argentina's Lionel Messi celebrates his goal during the second half of an international friendly match against Jamaica in Harrison, New Jersey, Tuesday night. (Photo: AP)

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