Lionel Messi’s surprising decision: to participate in Argentina’s World Cup 2026 qualifiers after announcing a one-year break and not returning – Find out the reasons.


Messi Leads Argentina in the Kick-off of the 2026 World Cup Qualifiers

Contrary to previous speculations about taking a break, Lionel Messi will continue to lead the reigning world champions, Argentina, in their opening matches of the 2026 World Cup qualifiers against Ecuador and Bolivia. These will be the first international matches for the 36-year-old captain since joining MLS’s Inter Miami.

In late June, there were reports that Messi had informed Argentina’s national team coach, Lionel Scaloni, of his desire to take a one-year hiatus from international duty, citing the need to spend time with his family as they adjust to their new life in the United States. However, the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner has been in excellent spirits following a stellar start in American soccer, scoring 11 goals in his first 10 matches and helping Inter Miami secure their first-ever Leagues Cup title. Additionally, Messi and his family have been enjoying their time in the U.S., which is a key factor motivating him to continue representing the national team.

Messi’s Recent Success:
The 36-year-old superstar previously led Argentina to victory in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, where La Albiceleste clinched the title by defeating France in a penalty shootout. Messi contributed significantly with 7 goals and 3 assists in 7 tournament matches, securing Argentina’s first World Cup win since 1986 and elevating himself to legendary status alongside the late Diego Maradona in Argentine football history.

Despite his advancing age, Messi has made more international appearances in the last two years than ever before – 16 matches in 2021 and 14 in 2022. Notably, his 18 goals in the past year surpassed his previous record of 12 goals in 2012, during his peak years. After the World Cup, Messi also made three international appearances in friendly matches in 2023, scoring 5 goals.


Argentina’s Squad:
Coach Lionel Scaloni’s 32-man squad includes other seasoned star players such as Angel Di Maria, who recently returned to Benfica, and defender Nicolas Otamendi. They will serve as leaders in a team that also features young talents receiving their first call-ups, including Alan Velasco (FC Dallas), Bruno Zapelli and Lucas Esquivel (Paranaense), and Lucas Beltran (Fiorentina). On the flip side, forward Paulo Dybala of AS Roma and goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli of Ajax Amsterdam are unavailable due to injuries.

The reigning world champions will host Ecuador in Buenos Aires on September 7th, followed by an away match against Bolivia just five days later.

Argentina’s Starting Lineup for the Qualifiers:

Goalkeepers: Juan Musso (Atalanta), Emiliano Martinez (Aston Villa), Walter Benitez (PSV Eindhoven), Franco Armani (River Plate).

Defenders: Nahuel Molina (Atletico Madrid), German Pezzella (Real Betis), Gonzalo Montiel (Nottingham Forest), Juan Foyth (Villarreal), Marcos Senesi (Bournemouth), Lisandro Martinez (Man.United), Cristian Romero (Tottenham), Nicolas Tagliafico (Lyon), Nicolas Otamendi (Benfica), Lucas Esquivel (Athletico Paranaense).

Midfielders: Leandro Paredes (AS Roma), Rodrigo De Paul (Atletico Madrid), Guido Rodriguez (Real Betis), Facundo Buonanotte (Brighton), Enzo Fernandez (Chelsea), Alexis Mac Allister (Liverpool), Exequiel Palacios (Leverkusen), and Bruno Zapelli (Athletico Paranaense).

Forwards: Lucas Beltran (Fiorentina), Nicolas Gonzalez (Fiorentina), Lautaro Martinez (Inter Milan), Angel Correa (Atletico Madrid), Julian Alvarez (Man.City), Alejandro Garnacho (Man.United), Angel Di Maria (Benfica), Lionel Messi (Inter Miami), Alan Velasco (FC Dallas), and Thiago Almada (Atlanta United).


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