San Juan, Jun 8: Lionel Messi struck a first-half brace as Argentina warmed up for the Copa America with a 5-1 win over Nicaragua.Messi on Friday gave the hosts the lead at Estadio Centenario in central-western Argentina by latching onto a Giovani Lo Celso pass and dancing around three defenders before coolly firing past Justo Lorente.
A minute later, Sergio Aguero's shot from a tight angle was parried clear by Lorente only for Messi to slide in the rebound.Messi and Aguero were replaced at halftime by Paulo Dybala and Lautaro Martinez and it was the latter who made the most of his chances.The Inter Milan forward thumped in his team's third goal after the ball fell to him from a corner, and he struck again 10 minutes later by slotting in at the far post after Ramiro Funes Mori's flicked header.
Roberto Pereyra tapped in the hosts' fifth goal following Rodrigo De Paul's run and cross from the left flank.Nicaragua pulled a goal back in stoppage time when Juan Barrera sent his spot kick into the top right corner after a Nicolas Otamendi handball.
Argentina's next match will be their Copa America opener against Colombia in Salvador on June 15. Nicaragua face Costa Rica in their CONCACAF Gold Cup curtain-raiser. Meanwhile, Uruguay also registered a comfortable win in their last outing before the Copa America, overcoming Panama 3-0 in Montevideo.
Luis Suarez brushed off any concerns about his fitness by coming off the bench to score in the 69th minute in his first match since undergoing keyhole knee surgery on May 10. Maxi Gomez and Federico Valverde were also on target for the Celeste.
Uruguay will begin their Copa America campaign against Ecuador in Belo Horizonte on June 16. (XINHUA)