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MAY 29, 2012
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) -Lionel Messi pulled on the Argentina shirt on Tuesday in the team’s first official practice as it prepares for a World Cup qualifier on Saturday against Ecuador in the Argentine capital.
Coach Alejandro Sabella threw together a powerful front line in practice, teaming the Barcelona star with Real Madrid pair Gonzalo Higuain and Angel Di Maria and Sergio Aguero of Manchester City.
These players are all coming off trophy-winning seasons in Europe. But none of them has delivered much for Argentina, which has not won a major title in 19 years – the last being the Copa America in 1993. Its previous World Cup title was in 1986, before the 24-year-old Messi was born.
Messi scored a record-setting 73 goals this season with Barcelona. He broke the previous European club record of 67 by Bayern Munich striker Gerd Mueller in 1972-73, and a world club mark of 70 set by Archie Stark of Bethlehem Steel in the American Soccer League in 1924-25.
“I’m very happy having scored the goals I have,” Messi said Tuesday. “I am lucky (at Barcelona) to play alongside great players. Coming to the national team and being involved in the same thing is not something everyone can have.”
Argentina has had mixed results in qualifying with wins over Chile and Colombia. The team also lost 1-0 to Venezuela and drew Bolivia 1-1.
Ecuador has beaten Venezuela and Peru and lost 2-1 to Paraguay.
Uruguay leads South American World Cup qualifying with seven points from three matches. Argentina and Venezuela have seven from four matches. Ecuador has six from three.