Messi could miss Venezuela qualifier
Infantino hails video replays
LIONEL Messi’s triumphant Argentina comeback has been tempered by a hint he may not be fit to play in Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier in Venezuela.
Messi, who had gone back on his decision to quit the team following their Copa America final defeat in June, scored the only goal in a 1-0 home win over Uruguay on Thursday that sent Argentina to the top of the South American group.
However, the Argentina captain said he had a groin pain and had to think about his fitness at the start of a busy season for his national side and his club Barcelona.
“My groin is hurting a lot, from before this match,” Messi told reporters. “We’ll see, I always want to be (in the team), but there are also a lot of important matches coming up.”
Messi explained why he had said he was retiring from international football after Argentina’s loss to Chile in New Jersey in which he missed his team’s first penalty in the decisive shootout.
“I didn’t deceive anyone in that moment,” he said. “I was very disappointed because it was a hard blow and I said that because that’s what I felt.
“But afterwards, seeing what this group (of players) is like, and with the affection of the fans, I reconsidered.”
It was Messi’s third defeat in a major final with Argentina in two years including the 2014 World Cup final against Germany in Brazil, and fourth altogether.
Messi is now gunning for a fourth World Cup appearance in Russia in 2018, with Argentina heading the 10-nation group with 14 points from seven matches.
The top four qualify for the tournament in Russia while the fifth-placed team will go into an intercontinental playoff for another place in the finals. — Reuters FIFA president Gianni Infantino yesterday hailed video replays as “a new page in history” a day after the technology had its first test in France’s 3-1 friendly win over Italy in Bari.
“It was a first at this level with national teams. We’re moving forward. It was promising,” said Infantino. “On two occasions in particular we used video replays. It’s positive.”
Infantino hopes “video assistant referees” will be used at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
“If it works then of course the entire footballing world would be happy to have this system to help referees during the biggest tournament in the world,” he said. And the price tag would be no obstacle. “A lot,” Infantino replied concerning the cost. “But it’s worth it. We need to do it and we will do it.”
“If we can help the referee make fewer mistakes while protecting the game, that’s good,” he continued.
Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers was linked by earphone with those operating the technology during the match, settling a doubt as early as four minutes following a Djibril Sidibe foul on Italy’s Daniele De Rossi.
Kuipers said: “I hesitated between yellow and red. The VAR was very useful it gave me information in nine or 10 seconds. Yellow was enough . . . that settled it.”
“The experience was very positive. We need to help the referees without spoiling the game but in 2016 it’s not acceptable that everyone sees something important and not the referee,” said Infantino at a Press conference yesterday. “If we don’t try, we can’t know if it works,” said Infantino who contrary to his former Uefa chief Michel Platini, has never hidden that he was favourable to the technology. “Football is conservative, sometimes even mediaeval,” said former Croatian footballer Zvonimir Boban, now deputy secretary general of Fifa. “It will never be perfect but it will clarify many things. It is better to help the referee than crucify him.” But Massimo Busacca, head of refereeing for Fifa, warned: “The referee must keep his instinct. He mustn’t say ‘if I have a doubt someone will decide for me’. That’s the risk.” — AFP