Lionel Messi scored two goals from the bench as Argentina extended their unbeaten streak to 35 matches over three years by beating Jamaica 3-0 on Tuesday night in a penultimate World Cup warmup match in Harrison, New Jersey.
Julian Alvarez put Argentina ahead in the 13th minute, while Messi came off the bench in the 55th and increased his career total to 90 goals in 164 international appearances with his two strikes.
The six-time world player of the year, three months past his 35th birthday, scored on a 23-yard left-footed shot in the 86th minute after nice interplay with Giovani Lo Celso, then got another on a free kick three minutes later when he was fouled by Adrian Mariappa just outside the penalty area.
Messi was twice approached by fans running onto the field. The first in the 65th minute was quickly knocked over and surrounded by security when he neared Messi, and the second after the PSG striker scored his first goal with security again responding.
Messi scored four goals in Argentina’s two World Cup warmups this month, giving him 16 for his career on U.S. soil.
Fans erupted in applause less than a minute into the second half when Messi walked with teammates to a corner and started to warm up and the crowd stood and roared when he entered for Lautaro Martínez and took the captain’s armband from Angel Di Maria.
Messi, who won his first senior title for Argentina at last year’s Copa America, energized Argentina in the second half and forced Jamaica keeper Andre Blake to make a pair of diving saves.
It was a near full house at 25,000-capacity Red Bull Arena, and the crowd, many in blue-and-white-striped Albiceleste jerseys, made it feel like an Argentina home game. Public address announcements were primarily in Spanish and ribbon boards flashed “Vamos Argentina!”
Alvarez put Argentina ahead after Nicolas Tagliafico passed from the flank to Martinez, who spun around Leon Bailey to open space and centered to the 22-year-old Alvarez. He slotted past Blake for his second goal in 11 international appearances.
Heading to their 13th straight World Cup, Argentina seek to add to championships won in 1978 with Mario Kempes and 1986 with Diego Maradona. Argentina have one remaining friendly, against the United Arab Emirates on Nov. 16 in Abu Dhabi. At the World Cup in Qatar, Argentina open against Saudi Arabia, who tied the United States 0-0 in an exhibition Tuesday, and then play Mexico and Poland in Group C.
Argentina have 25 wins, including one on penalty kicks, and 10 draws since a 2-0 loss to Brazil at the Copa America on July 2, 2019.
Coach Lionel Scaloni made eight changes to the starting lineup from Friday’s 3-0 win over 80th-ranked Honduras at Miami Gardens, Florida, inserting Di Maria and Giovani Lo Celso. Emiliano Martínez replaced Geronimo Rulli in goal.
The Reggae Boyz, who finished sixth among eight nations in the final round of the CONCACAF region, played in jerseys without names, in contrast to Argentina. Jamaica started a first-choice lineup in their first match under new coach Heimir Hallgrímsson that included Premier Leaguer players Michail Antonio, Leon Bailey and Bobby Decordova-Reid, as well as Blake, a Philadelphia Union standout.