Messi could miss Venezuela qual­i­fier

In­fantino hails video re­plays

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Sport -

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

Gianni In­fantino

Lionel Messi

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