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Four-goal Argentina too strong for Iraq in Saudi friendly


Iraq’s Mohanad Ali in action with Argentina’s Ramiro Funes Mori and Roberto Pereyra. (Reuters)

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Argentina easily overcame Iraq 4-0 in a friendly in Saudi Arabia on Thursday with three players scoring their first international goals for the twice world champions while German Pezzella also found the net. Argentina were without Lionel Messi, who is taking a sabbatical from international football, and fielded a new-look side that included one player making his debut and two others their first ever starts.

The new boys were rarely troubled by an Iraq side that defended in numbers, but showed little threat in their opponent’s half. Inter Milan striker Lautaro Martinez, playing only his second game for the national side, put Argentina ahead after 15 minutes with a superb header from a Marcos Acuna cross.

Roberto Pereyra doubled their lead eight minutes into the second half when he took a pass on the edge of the box and swept a right-foot shot home after the Iraq defence opened up in front of him. Defender Pezzella grabbed a third eight minutes from fulltime when he headed home after a flick-on at a corner and Franco Cervi added a fourth in injury time after a surging run from midfield.

“It wasn’t easy opening them up but we managed it and we were patient and managed to score more goals,” Pezzella said.
The win took Argentina’s unbeaten run under interim coach Lionel Scaloni to three games. Since taking over from Jorge Sampaoli after Argentina’s poor performance at the World Cup in Russia, the South Americans have beaten Guatemala and Iraq and drawn with Colombia, without conceding a goal.

Argentina’s next game is on Tuesday against arch rivals Brazil in Jeddah.

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