Lionel Messi will lead world champions Argentina when they play a friendly against Australia in Beijing next month, his country said on Monday, as it announced that its national team would also play a match in Indonesia.
The clash on June 15 in the Chinese capital is a rematch of the meeting between Argentina and Australia in the last 16 of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Messi scored in a 2-1 win for Argentina and they went on to win the tournament.
Contrary to previous reports that the friendly could take place at Beijing’s National Stadium, also known as the Bird’s Nest, it was confirmed on Monday that it would be played at the recently rebuilt Workers’ Stadium.
“On June 15, Lionel Messi will lead the Argentinian national team in a friendly against Australia in Beijing,” the South American country’s embassy in China said on the Twitter-like Weibo.
Messi’s first trip to China since 2017 will be his seventh time in all, dating back to 2005.
It comes at a time when the 35-year-old’s future at his club Paris Saint-Germain is the subject of intense speculation. A source close to the player has said that he has received a formal offer to play in Saudi Arabia next season.
He received a fervent welcome on each of his previous visits to China, which has a huge football fan base despite the struggles of its men’s national team and the financial turmoil that has beset several Chinese Super League (CSL) clubs.
His previous appearances in the country were for Argentina or his former club Barcelona in friendlies. The Spanish side beat CSL side Beijing Guoan 3-0 in a friendly in 2010.
News of the match against the Socceroos quickly went viral on Chinese social media, with many fans voicing eagerness to watch the game.
“If I can get a ticket, I wouldn’t mind not having a girlfriend for a whole year,” one fan quipped on social media. Separately, the Argentina national team also announced another friendly fixture, against Indonesia in Jakarta on June 19, as part of a summer tour of Asia. Football Australia chief executive James Johnson said that playing in China would boost ties between the two countries after years of troubled relations.“Football is truly the global game and for Australia to be invited to play this match in China, and against the world No 1, we hope this will open further opportunities for our two nations to work together both on and off the football field,” Johnson said. “It’s been 15 years since our senior men’s national team played in China and we are truly excited to be returning to face Argentina at the newly renovated Workers’ Stadium in Beijing.” International sport has only just begun to return to China after the country’s government abruptly ditched strict Covid-19 curbs late last year.
ARTICLE FROM: Expat Hub