'He continues to love us' - Emi Martinez 'proud' of Lionel Messi for staying with Argentina squad for Bolivia clash despite nursing an injury

Emiliano Martinez Lionel Messi Argentina 2022 World CupGetty
  • Messi travels with squad despite injury
  • Albiceleste run out 3-0 winners at altitude
  • Bolivian fans chant Martinez's name

WHAT HAPPENED? The Argentina captain was left out of his country's clash with Bolivia in La Paz after being substituted late on during Thursday's win over Ecuador. But rather than flying off to begin his recuperation in Miami, Messi chose to stick with his team-mates as they faced the gruelling trip to 3,600 metres above sea level in the second of their World Cup qualifying double-header - something that impressed his goalkeeper.

WHAT THEY SAID: Martinez explained to reporters after his side had completed a comfortable 3-0 win: “There is hunger. It's the same captain that could have went home but he accompanied us. That makes us proud that he continues to feel, continues to love and accompany us in that sense. I am proud to be behind these boys.”

The Aston Villa man –– usually the recipient of a hostile reception from opposing fans –– was delighted to be given a warm welcome from Bolivian supporters. “Normally, they don’t like me much outside of Argentina," Martinez chuckled. "But today the Bolivian people surprised me that they chanted my name and I have a lot of respect for this country.”

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THE BIGGER PICTURE: Still basking in the glow of December's World Cup win in Qatar, the Argentina camp seems a happy place to be right now. And with the defence of their trophy getting off to a solid start, there seems to be no imminent threat to those feel-good vibes.


Emi Martinez Argentina World Cup 2022GettyLionel Messi and Emi Martinez of Argentina after the 2022 World Cup finalGettyEnzo Fernandez Julian Alvarez Argentina Bolivia Eliminatorias Sudamericanas 12092023AIZAR RALDES/AFP via Getty Images

WHAT NEXT FOR ARGENTINA? Argentina's players will now return to their respective clubs, but they will gather again in October for qualifiers against Paraguay and Peru.