Argentina moves friendlies to US after China cancels matches amid Messi fallout

Argentina will travel to the United States next month to play two matches after Chinese sporting authorities canceled friendlies featuring the World Cup champions amid criticism over Lionel Messi's failure to feature in an Inter Miami match in Hong Kong.

Argentina's FA said on Thursday that Lionel Scaloni's side will lock horns with El Salvador at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia on March 22 before facing Nigeria at the Coliseum in Los Angeles on March 26.

Argentina were scheduled to play Nigeria in the Chinese city of Hangzhou before facing the Ivory Coast in Beijing but Messi's failure to take the field for Inter Miami in Hong Kong against a local League XI earlier this month caused widespread anger among fans.

Messi was deemed unfit to play in the friendly, which drew 40,000 fans and saw some spectators paying up to nearly HK$5,000 ($640) for a ticket.

Chinese state media, Hong Kong politicians and fans reacted angrily three days later when the 36-year-old Argentine forward came off the bench to play in a friendly match in Tokyo against Vissel Kobe.

In a video posted on Weibo, one of China's largest social media platforms, on Monday, eight-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi said his absence from the match had been caused by an inflamed adductor.

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