Tue. Dec 6th, 2022

Argentina warmed up for the World Cup with a 5-0 hammering of the United Arab Emirates in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday, as a brace from Angel Di Maria and goals from Julian Alvarez, Lionel Messi and Joaquin Correa extended their unbeaten run to 36 games.

Roared on by the Mohammad Bin Zayed Stadium crowd, Argentina took the lead when Messi collected a pass from Di Maria and found himself with the goalkeeper to beat but unselfishly set up Alvarez for his third international goal in the 17th minute.

Di Maria doubled Argentina’s lead eight minutes later with a superb volley after Marcos Acuna crossed into the area from the left. The twice World Cup winners found their groove ahead of the tournament, which starts in Qatar on Sunday.

The forward, who overcame a hamstring injury last month to be named in manager Lionel Scaloni’s World Cup squad, struck in the 36th as he dribbled past several UAE defenders and slotted home as Argentina put their opponents to the sword.

Messi joined in the fun a minute before halftime with a fine shot into the corner after a pass from Di Maria while substitute Correa completed the rout following the break with a deflected goal in the 60th minute.

“We’re confident,” midfielder Rodrigo De Paul said. “But for many, it will be their first World Cup so the first game will be very important.”

Argentina, who will return to Qatar on Thursday, face Saudi Arabia in their opener on Nov. 22 before matches against Mexico and Poland in Group C.

Defender Cristian Romero and forwards Nicolas Gonzalez, Alejandro Gomez and Paulo Dybala were left out of Wednesday’s game, with all four recovering after feeling “some discomfort,” Scaloni said.

“We have a few problems, we have days to decide on the list … We can change, hopefully not, but there is a possibility,” Scaloni told reporters.

“I’m not saying they are going to be dropped from the list. Some players are not well and have been left out of the squad today because they were not fit to play or there was a risk.

“We have to be cautious because there is a reason why they were left out.”

FIFA rules say that the World Cup teams can replace players in their squads who are injured or ill up to 24 hours before their opening match.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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