Copa America: Lionel Messi set for well-earned rest after guiding Argentina into quarter-finals

Captain starred once again against Paraguay on his record-levelling appearance for his national team

Argentina manager Lionel Scaloni has said he could rest Lionel Messi for the final Copa America group game against Bolivia after his captain and star man's heavy involvement in the tournament so far.

Messi was once again a key man in the 1-0 win over Paraguay on Monday that booked Argentina's place in the quarter-finals with a game to spare.

The Barcelona forward has played every minute so far and as usual never stopped looking for the ball. His 66 touches against Chile in Argentina's opener was a team high, as was his 78 against Uruguay, along with Rodrigo De Paul. Against Paraguay only defender Nahuel Molina touched the ball more.

With Argentina now destined for the knockout stages, Scaloni has hinted Messi could get a well-earned rest.

“The truth is that Messi has played in all our games and so it is very difficult not to rely on him,” Scaloni said after a hard-fought game in which Argentina scored early and then ceded more and more ground to a Paraguay side that could not turn their possession into goals.

“What worries me is the physical condition of the players. The conditions were not great to play in.

“It’s possible that we will rotate in the next game,” he said of next Monday’s final group game against Bolivia. “Having qualified gives us some peace of mind. Now we can recharge our batteries and our strength.”

Messi got his 147th cap against Paraguay, tying the record held by Javier Mascherano. The recognition comes at the end of an eventful season for a man who will turn 34 on Thursday.

He began the season opting to stay at Barcelona after saying he wanted to leave. Exactly where he will be next season is not certain but one thing that is not in doubt is his status at the national side.

Messi has spoken openly about wanting to win a title with Argentina and add an international honour to the countless trophies he has picked up with his club.

Argentina have not won a major title since lifting the Copa America in 1993 and it is the one blank page on his otherwise unblemished CV.

In Monday's other Copa America match, Chile also booked their place in the quarter-finals after securing a 1-1 draw with Uruguay.

Veteran striker Eduardo Vargas fired Chile ahead on 26 minutes before Uruguay salvaged a point through an Arturo Vidal own goal in the 66th minute.

EDITOR'S PICKS
NEWSLETTERS