Santa Clara - Argentina coach Gerardo Martino expects Lionel
Messi to be fit for his team's second Copa America Centenario fixture this week
-- even if he is satisfied that the two-time world champions are adjusting to
life without their injured superstar.
Martino was a happy man after watching the Argentines open
their Group D campaign with a convincing 2-1 win on Monday over reigning Copa
America champions Chile, a result that should ease their passage into the
Goals from man-of-the-match Angel Di Maria and Ever Banega
secured the points for Argentina, who left the injured Messi on the substitutes
bench at Levi's Stadium as he recuperates from an injured back.
Martino revealed the 28-year-old FIFA World Player of the
Year could be fit to return for Argentina's second group game against Panama at
Chicago's Soldier Field on Friday.
"He has continued working here, he's kicking the ball
better now," Martino said.
"We expect in four days he'll be in a condition to
play. So we're thinking we will be in a better position by then."
Although Messi's replacement, Benfica's Nicolas Gaitan,
performed well on the right side of Argentina's front three, Martino is not
discounting the importance of their absent talisman.
"We're always a better team when Messi is in the
team," Martino said.
"Our chances of winning the Copa are always going to be
higher when he's playing."
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Argentina struggled in their first three 2018 World Cup
qualifying matches last year when Messi was absent with a knee injury, posting
a loss and two draws.
Martino however believes his team is learning how to adapt
in their captain's absence.
"It's important to respond the right way when he's not
there," Martino said.
"Today we came with 23 players and all of them
contributed. We showed virtue as a team."
Meanwhile, Chile coach Juan Antonio Pizzi shrugged off
suggestions that his team was in a slump after what was a third consecutive
defeat following recent friendly losses to Jamaica and Mexico.
"During the course of the game I did not notice a big
difference between the two teams," Pizzi said.
"What happened is that we made crucial mistakes and
they cost us two goals."
Pizzi is confident that Chile's star-studded team will be
able to recover and qualify from Group D, which also includes Panama and
"I trust in my abilities and the abilities of the team
and we're going to get up and get back to winning," he said.
"We believe we're going to get into the next round. I
know we have difficult games ahead of us. We're going to continue working and
we have the belief to move to the next round."For
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