Di María scores, Messi returns in Argentina’s Copa América warmup victory over Ecuador

Ángel Di María scored as Lionel Messi returned to the international stage for the first time in six months, helping Argentina to a 1-0 victory over Ecuador in a Copa América warmup match on Sunday at Soldier Field in Chicago.

Messi was sidelined for the first half before replacing Di María in the 56th minute.

A right hamstring injury kept the eight-time Ballon d’Or winner and Inter Miami star from participating in Argentina’s previous two Copa América warmup matches against El Salvador and Costa Rica in March.

“With Leo [Messi], there is no need to risk him. Not just with him, but others like [Nicolas] Otamendi didn’t play. Angel [Di María] only played some minutes, Julian [Alvarez] and Lautaro [Martinez] the same”, said Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni.

“We want to take care of these players, and allow them to arrive in their best possible conditions to the tournament”.

With Messi watching from the bench, Di María sent a reverse pass from Cristian Romero into the net to open the scoring in the 40th minute.

“We know Copa America will be complicated, you could see it today in the game. Players get into it, and there will be difficult games,” Di María told TyC sports. “I think today was a good game to demonstrate how we are. I think we’re on a good path.”

Di María’s goal marked his second consecutive in an international match, also scoring against Costa Rica on March 26. With the 31st goal of his Argentina career, the 36-year-old midfielder is tied with Gonzalo Higuain for the fifth-most goals in the country’s history and sits just four goals behind Diego Maradona at No. 4 on the leaderboard.

Scaloni’s squad will wrap up its pre-Copa América slate in Washington D.C. on Friday with a warmup match against Guatemala before opening its group stage of the tournament against Canada on June 20.

“We need to get together, compete, add minutes and feel that sensation of putting on that jersey again. That’s what we’re after before a Copa América that will be very difficult,” Scaloni added.

Ecuador will play two friendly matches, against Bolívia on Wednesday and Honduras on June 16, before its debut in Copa America against Venezuela on June 22.

ESPN’s Lizzy Becherano and The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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