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Messi, Suárez face off in World Cup qualifying

AP – Lionel Messi and Luiz Suárez, close friends and former teammates at Barcelona, will renew their on-the-field rivalry tomorrow in World Cup qualifying.

Messi, who appears to have recovered from a muscle injury in his leg, led Argentina to their third World Cup title last year and has his team in first place in the South American qualifying group for the 2026 tournament. The 36-year-old Suárez has just returned to Uruguay’s national team as he nears the end of a high-scoring season in the Brazilian league.

The Argentines will take on two-time World Cup champion Uruguay at La Bombonera Stadium in Buenos Aires.

Also tomorrow, Brazil will travel to face Colombia in Barranquilla as they try to recover from a home draw with Venezuela and a loss at Uruguay in the previous two qualifying matches.

Brazil coach Fernando Diniz, who recently won the Copa Libertadores with Fluminense, could use teenager Endrick after calling him up for the first time.

Argentina lead the 10-team South American qualifying group with 12 points from four matches. Uruguay, Brazil and Venezuela have seven points each and are separated by goal difference. Colombia has six points, while Ecuador, Paraguay and Chile have four each. Peru has one point and Bolivia has zero.

The next World Cup in the United States, Mexico and Canada will include 48 teams, meaning direct entry for the top six teams in South America. The seventh-place team will contest an intercontinental playoff for a berth.

Messi will likely be playing his last two matches of the calendar year against Uruguay and then Brazil next week at the Maracana Stadium.

Argentina’s forward Lionel Messi during a training session in Ezeiza, Buenos Aires Province, Argentina. PHOTO: AFP & XINHUA
Uruguay striker Luiz Suárez. PHOTO: AFP & XINHUA