Messi, Suarez both score in pre-Copa America friendlies

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Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez are both in typical goalscoring form as their international sides ramp up for the imminent 2019 Copa America.

Messi bagged a quickfire brace in the first half of Argentina’s 5-1 beatdown of Nicaragua, scoring in the 37th and 38th minutes to key the win. The first was a classic Messi stunner where he dribbled past nearly the entire Nicaragua defense, skipping by no less than four defenders before depositing the ball in the back of the net with ease.

His second came as Argentina went right back on the attack with Sergio Aguero rifling a shot on net that was saved by Nicaragua goalkeeper Justo Lorente, only for it to fall right at the feet of Messi who completed a sliding finish under pressure. The Barcelona superstar was withdrawn at halftime for Juventus attacker Paulo Dybala.

Overall, it was a dominating performance from Argentina, holding 67% possession and putting eight of their 19 shots on target. Electric 21-year-old Inter striker Lautaro Martinez scored a second-half brace to double Argentina’s lead, a positive sign for the country that has searched far and wide for someone to share the goalscoring load with Messi. Roberto Pereyra completed the scoreline with a late tap-in, while the back line that consisted at times of Nicolas Otamendi, Juan Foyth, and Ramiro Funes Mori held Nicaragua to a measly two total shots with zero on target until stoppage time when Juan Berrera put Nicaragua on the board from the penalty spot.

While Messi was clowning the Nicaragua back line, his Barcelona teammate Luis Suarez was on target as Uruguay had no trouble dispatching Panama 3-0. The 32-year-old came off the bench alongside Edinson Cavani in the 63rd minute and six minutes later, he dispatched a Messi-like free-kick that found the top-left corner and left Panamanian goalkeeper Luis Mejia no chance, making the game 2-0 at the time.

The Uruguay defense looked tournament-ready as well, holding Panama to just one shot on target and five overall efforts on net. The game was a foul-fest, with the sides combining to produce 43 whistles, although only one yellow card was issued. Uruguay dominated the attacking play, holding 64% of possession and earning 10 corners while Panama did not take a single one.

Argentina will begin Copa America play next Saturday as it takes on Colombia in group stage play. Uruguay, meanwhile, gets under way a day later, set to face Ecuador before a meeting with AFC guest Japan.