Argentina could be without Lionel Messi in match against Ecuador. AP

Lionel Messi could miss Argentina’s 2024 Copa America quarterfinal against Ecuador on Friday with a hamstring injury. Messi missed Saturday’s final group stage match, a 2-0 win over Peru, after complaining of a sore right hamstring.

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni refused to confirm Messi’s participation on Wednesday, saying he would wait before making a decision on his team. Argentina will hold a training session later on Thursday and Scaloni said he would make a decision after that.

“We’ll wait a few hours and then make a decision. It’s always better to have another day,” he told a news conference.

“Yesterday we had a good feeling and we will use this day to define the team based on the reactions we get today,” he added.

Scaloni said he would discuss with the 37-year-old Messi his readiness to play for the match.

“We will try to bring him in and if he is not (ready) then we will look for the best solution for the team. I will talk to him today. I think it is fair that he takes his time and trains as much as possible,” he said.

Scaloni made nine changes to his squad against Peru as he seized the opportunity to rotate his selection now that qualification for the knockout stages was secured.

Should Messi not be ready to start against Ecuador, Scaloni could start with Julian Alvarez and Lautaro Martinez as double strikers in attack.

Lautaro is the top scorer in the Copa so far with four goals from three games, including two against Peru, while Alvarez scored in the opening game against Canada.

“They have already played together against this rival. We will make the decision after today’s training. We do not rule anything out because they have worked well and it is an option, it could happen,” said Scaloni.

“Lautaro is doing very well, at a good time, like Julian. Lautaro has not only done well, but he has waited for his chance and that makes me very happy. They have both scored, let’s hope that streak continues tomorrow. We are happy with their contributions,” he said.

Ecuador coach Felix Sanchez said he does not expect a radical change of approach from Argentina, with or without Messi.

“We know we are playing against a high-level team, Lionel Messi is the player who makes the difference and we have played against them with and without him on the pitch,” he said.

“Their game plan doesn’t change much – it’s a group that has been working with their head coach for a long time, they know their game plan and we have to be ready anyway,” the Spaniard added.

With AFP inputs

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