19.06.2024 23:22 h

Just enjoy Messi and Di Maria while you can urges Scaloni

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni has urged his compatriots to not worry about when Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria will hang up their boots and to instead just enjoy watching them in the Copa America.

World champions and defending Copa America title holders, Argentina get the 16-team tournament under way against Canada at Mercedes Benz Stadium on Thursday.

Messi, the eight-times Ballon d'Or winner who turns 37 on Monday, will captain Scaloni's team in what is surely his final edition of the continental championship.

And with winger Angel Di Maria, 36, also reaching the final stages of his career, the end of an era is on the horizon for the 15-times Copa winners.

But Scaloni said that shouldn't be the focus around the team in the coming tournament.

"It doesn't make much sense to think about when they're gone. Let's enjoy them now, we'll see what happens later. Messi is fine, he's happy. I'm with renewed ideas and strength. It's a nice challenge to defend the title," he said.

Scaloni said he has a full strength side to pick from for the opening game against Jesse Marsch's Canada.

Chelsea midfielder Enzo Fernandez underwent a hernia operation in April but returned to action in the World Cup winners' recent friendlies against Ecuador and Guatemala and Scaloni said he is ready to go.

"We'll see if he plays tomorrow but he is in condition to start," the Argentine coach told a news conference where he appeared alongside midfielder Leandro Paredes.

Scaloni hinted that AS Roma midfielder Paredes is likely to start however and said that while he was keeping his starting eleven to himself, he had made his mind up.

"I have the line-up, I have no doubts. I'm going to give it to them this afternoon, they don't know yet. They're all available for tomorrow's game, the ones we think are the best will play," he said.

"I could be wrong, but we always think about putting out the best. With me, whoever is best always plays. Paredes had to come off in the first game of the World Cup because we thought there were other guys who were better. And there's a reason why I have him next to me now," said Scaloni.

Should Scaloni start with Fernandez on the bench his midfield trio is likely to be made up of Rodrigo De Paul, Paredes and Alexis Mac Allister

Argentina have started their CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying campaign positively with five wins out of six games but Scaloni said he was looking forward to match-ups with teams from outside of South America.

This edition of the Copa America features six teams from the CONCACAF region with Argentina facing Canada as well as Chile and Peru in Group A.

While the USA and Mexico are traditionally the strongest teams from CONCACAF, Scaloni said he has been impressed by Canada's progress.

"They have a very good team, with important players and a new coach who has brought new ideas. In the last World Cup they played very well, but didn't get the luck they deserved," he said, before warning against complacency.

"They are a difficult opponent. Anyone who thinks it's all been said and done is wrong. They're the best in their country and it's extremely difficult, especially at the start of a tournament. They can put us in trouble and we have to be prepared," he said.