Lionel Messi was sidelined with a leg injury as Argentina managed only a lackluster, scoreless draw with Costa Rica on Tuesday in an international friendly at the Ticos’ new national stadium.
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Argentina coach Sergio Batista said the Barcelona star had a minor injury to his right leg, leaving him out of the lineup after saying he was expected to play. Batista also rested most of his other top players with only midfielder Javier Mascherano and defender Gabriel Milito among regular starters in the first 11.
Batista said before the match the decision was his, denying he was pressured to rest Messi. His absence clearly disappointed the sellout at Costa Rica’s new national stadium, where many fans had hoped to see the world’s best player on the field.
The second-string Argentina team played on mostly even terms with the Central Americans in a match that lacked rhythm and attacking, both teams touching the ball a few times and then giving away possession too easily.
Neither team did much in the first half. Argentina had most of the possession but failed to generate many scoring threats, with Costa Rica trying to take advantage on the counterattack.
Argentina’s Marcos Angeleri probably had the best chance in the second half, hitting a blistering shot from 18 meters in the 63rd that Costa Rica keeper Keylor Navas deflected just wide of the goal.
Costa Rica’s Michael Barrantes Rojas had a chance to score the winner minutes from the end, but missed by inches connecting with the ball in front of Argentina keeper Mariano Andujar.
Argentina drew 1-1 on Saturday against the United States in a friendly at East Rutherford, New Jersey.
The match was played in Costa Rica’s new national stadium built in the capital by the Chinese government. China and Costa Rica established diplomatic relations in 2007.
Costa Rica: Keylor Navas; Gilberto Martinez Vidal, Heiner Mora (Cesar Elizondo 80), Jhonny Acosta, Dennis Marshall, Oscar Duarte Gaitan, Celso Borges (David Guzman 59), Cristian Bolanos (Marco Urena 76), Bryan Oviedo (Pedro Leal 84), Brian Ruiz (Michael Barrantes Rojas 67), Alvaro Saborio (Josue Martinez 88).
Argentina: Mariano Andujar; Marcos Angeleri, Ezequiel Garay, Gabriel Milito (Nicolas Otamendi 46), Faustino Rojo, Ever Banega (Fernando Belluschi 46), Javier Mascherano (Mario Bolatti 46), Lucas Biglia, Javier Pastore, Osvaldo Gaitan, Jose Sosa (Eduardo Salvio 65).