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Messi warms up for WC with hat-trick against Haiti

Lionel Messi of Argentina scores from the penalty spot during the International Friendly against Haiti at the Alberto J Armando Stadium in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
 BUENOS AIRES, May 30: Lionel Messi warmed up for next month’s FIFA World Cup with a hat-trick as he inspired Argentina to a morale-boosting 4-0 win over Haiti in a pre-tournament friendly here.

 Messi scored a quickfire second-half double (58th and 68th minutes) to add to a first-half (17th minute) penalty, before setting up substitute Sergio Aguero (69th) as Jorge Sampaoli’s side hammered the Caribbean minnows in their final phase of preparations for the showpiece event. With this hat-trick, the FC Barcelona talisman took his international tally to 64 goals in 124 appearances.

The Albicelestes, who are two-time world champions, had struggled throughout the qualifying campaign but the thoroughly dominating display here should boost their confidence even though the win came against a side that has not qualified for the World Cup. Haiti could not even register a shot at the goal in the whole match.

It was a night of celebration for another Barcelona star as Javier Mascherano joined Javier Zanetti as Argentina’s most capped player with 143 international appearances.

“I have no doubt that we are going to grow, we have time, this team is going to take shape. We have been working hard on the physical, I think we have a nice opportunity to try again, we are going to be very excited, as always,” Messi said after the match.

Argentina play Iceland in Moscow in their first match of the World Cup on June 16.

Sampaoli was upbeat about his superstar No. 10, saying, “Messi is training very well, he finished the Spanish tournament and two days later he was here, he looks very enthusiastic”.

“Against Iceland we will have to take advantage of the domain, we need a high level of force in the World Cup.”

In other friendly matches, Peru eased past Scotland 2-0 in Lima while Panama were held to a goal-less draw at home by Northern Ireland.

Peru were the dominant side over an inexperienced Scotland with goals either side of half-time.

Christian Cueva converted a spot-kick eight minutes before the break, while Jefferson Farfan added the second just after the resumption. – PTI

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