Lionel Messi reveals he has been carrying a hamstring injury after missing Argentina friendly

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The Argentina magician has been battling hamstring issues of late.

A hamstring injury kept Lionel Messi out of the action as Argentina beat Italy 2-0 in a friendly on Friday but the star man remains confident of overcoming it before the clash with Spain.

Jorge Sampaoli’s men ran out comfortable victors at the Etihad stadium in Manchester with Ever Banega and Manuel Lanzini getting their names on the score-sheet.

Messi though, could only watch from the sidelines as he nursed the injury he has been now carrying for some time according to his own words.

“I have been suffering from this hamstring injury for some time,” Messi told TyC Sports before the game.

“I always want to play, but the road to the World Cup is still long. We decided to wait for this game (against Italy) to rest but I’m optimistic about playing against Spain.” the Barcelona maestro added.

Messi expects to be fit for Tuesday's clash against Spain.

Messi expects to be fit for Tuesday’s clash against Spain.

Sampaoli himself had added that Messi was on course to play against Italy before the latest setback.

“We had planned the game with Leo Messi in the starting line-up, but he had an injury and we preferred him not to take part,” he said at the post-match press conference.

Following their 1-1 draw against defending world champions Germany on Friday, Spain are set to take on Argentina in another friendly on Tuesday.

Messi has been having another highly productive season with Barcelona who remain on course for three trophies including the La Liga title.

The Blaugrana magician has scored 35 goals in all competitions this season so far despite carrying the hamstring injury for the past few weeks.

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic keeping door open for World Cup return with Sweden

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The Swede had retired from international duty in 2016.

The prospect of Zlatan Ibrahimovic lining up for Sweden in the upcoming World Cup in Russia still remains a possibility if the star-striker’s words are anything to go by.

The Swede retired from international duty in 2016 after his side’s group-stage exit in the Euros.

The 36-year-old completed his move to Major Soccer League (MLS) outfit LA Galaxy on Friday after his contract with Manchester United was terminated following a season hampered by injuries.

With the country having qualified for the event in Russia courtesy a playoff victory over Italy, Ibrahimovic is keeping the door ajar for his international return.

“The main focus now is the Galaxy, to settle in, to get to know my new team-mates, to get to know the club, to get to know the city,” Ibrahimovic told MLSsoccer.com upon the completion of his move to the Los Angeles franchise.

“When I feel comfortable there, you take the next step. They’re calling me every day, asking how do you feel, what do you want, what are you thinking, how’s the situation?

“But it’s one step at a time. If I feel good and I feel able and I can do what I know I can do, the door will always be open.

“It has nothing to do with the other (Sweden) side, it’s about this side, about me. If I want, I’m there. If I don’t want, I’m not. But it’s one thing at a time.

“I’m hungry to play football. When I do that then we’ll see what happens.”

In 116 appearances for Sweden, Zlatan has scored 62 goals and he remains the country’s record scorer.

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Gareth Southgate delighted to see England enjoying their football as Three Lions overcome Dutch challenge

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Southgate's England beat the Netherlands by a solitary goal.

Gareth Southgate was pleased to see his England team playing with a smile as World Cup preparations continued with a deserved win in the Netherlands.

With just three months until the finals get under way, pressure is starting to build as players look to prove their worth and the Three Lions manager attempts to hone his side.

Eyebrows were raised by some of Southgate’s choices in the penultimate friendly before announcing his squad for Russia, but those selected repaid their manager’s faith with a positive performance in Amsterdam.

Jesse Lingard‘s strike proved the difference as England ran out 1-0 victors against one of the most notable World Cup absentees, giving Southgate a first win in a high-profile friendly at the sixth time of asking.

“Really pleased with the quality of our football,” the England boss said after beating Holland.

“The tactical awareness the players showed. I think Holland changed system three times within the game, and we were looking to see how our players would respond and the identified it each time.

“They managed to make use of the overloads we had in the right areas, so I was pleased.

“I knew we’d got pace and energy in the team, but I was really, really pleased with the composure especially playing through the first two thirds of the pitch.

“At times a bit more quality in the final third was needed, but I think we deserved the win.

“A well-taken goal which was started by our goalkeeper, and what looked a pretty clear penalty (on Marcus Rashford) to me as well.

“For me, lots of individual positives and I think probably the most pleasing thing is the players looked like they enjoyed their football tonight.

Lingard's goal had proved to be the difference between the two sides.

Lingard’s goal had proved to be the difference between the two sides.

“They enjoyed (having) the ball and I was really pleased to see that.”

Jordan Pickford did well in his audition for the No.1 jersey on just his second England appearance, while Raheem Sterling looked sharp in attack despite a lack of cutting edge frustrating England once again.

The Three Lions also reacted well after Joe Gomez was forced after just 10 minutes, with the enforced change not proving a problem for a backline that surprisingly included right-back Kyle Walker in the central trio.

“I think in a back three, we knew the position would suit Joe Gomez when we played him there in November and it as the same for Kyle.

“You need to be able to be comfortable defending in wide areas. Obviously because he is a full-back his use of the ball is really composed.

“And actually as well as his pace being a tremendous asset to the defence, if you watch City play it’s kind of where he ends up now anyway.

“Their left-back projects into midfield, Kyle doesn’t maraud forward like he did at Spurs. He supports from behind and in my view I saw enough in those moments to feel that he could adapt to the position in a three.”

Walker’s understanding with Manchester City team-mate John Stones was a bonus and gives Southgate a welcome boost as he looks to pick a World Cup squad boasting a variety of versatile players.

Holland will not be heading to Russia and new manager Ronald Koeman has his work cut out judging by Friday’s display at the Amsterdam ArenA.

“Defensively we played quite well, but didn’t create many chances,” the former Everton and Southampton boss said. “And we made some mistakes as well.

“And clearly there is a difference in quality between the Netherlands and England.

“You always hope for a match in which you perform better and create more chances (than this).”

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