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Singapore to host Argentina, probably without Messi, at National Stadium in June

SINGAPORE — Two-time World Cup champions Argentina are scheduled to come to Singapore to play an international friendly at the National Stadium on June 13.

Argentina's Lionel Messi. Photo: AP

Argentina's Lionel Messi. Photo: AP

SINGAPORE — Two-time World Cup champions Argentina are scheduled to come to Singapore to play an international friendly at the National Stadium on June 13.

TODAY understands that the South American football powerhouse, currently No 2 in the FIFA world rankings, have been pencilled in to take on V Sundramoorthy’s Lions after their trip to Australia to play a friendly against Brazil on June 9.

The match against their South American arch-rivals will see Argentina putting together a strong squad that could include Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero, Marcus Rojo (Manchester United), Angel Di Maria (Paris St Germain), Gonzalo Higuain (Juventus) and Javier Mascherano (Barcelona). However, fans keen on watching skipper Lionel Messi in action on the green turf of the stadium could be disappointed.

The prolific 29-year-old Barcelona striker, who is a five-time Ballon d’Or winner, has been suspended by Fifa for four games for verbally abusing an assistant referee during Argentina’s World Cup qualifier against Chile. He sat out Argentina’s following qualifier against Bolivia on Tuesday, and barring a successful appeal will miss three more games.

It remains to be seen whether Messi’s possible absence will have an adverse impact on ticket sales for the friendly.

The Argentina-Singapore friendly will also cap a week of top-class ‘live’ sporting action from June 5 to 11.

TODAY reported on Thursday that the National Stadium will host its first-ever top-level international rugby test on June 10.

Rugby Singapore, the events and commercial arm of the Singapore Rugby Union, has arranged for Six Nations members Scotland and Italy to play here during their respective stopovers to Australia and Fiji for test matches.

The match will be a historic occasion as it will be the first international test to be held at the National Stadium in 19 years.

The last time Kallang witnessed an international test was when Singapore hosted the 1998 Asian Rugby Championships at the old National Stadium. It will also be the first time two Northern Hemisphere sides will be facing off in Singapore.

However, the confirmation of the Scotland-Italy test means that the Singapore Sports Hub will have to tackle the huge challenge of turning around its state-of-the-art field, and the stadium’s seating arrangements, to the required conditions for the Argentina-Singapore friendly.

The short turnaround time, in turn, may influence the Argentine Football Association’s decision on whether or not to proceed with the Singapore friendly.

Singapore football fans will also have another Lions game to look forward to during the week of June 5-11 as Singapore are scheduled to play their second Asian Cup qualifier against Taiwan at home on June 10.

The match was originally scheduled to be held on June 13. However, TODAY has learnt that the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) had asked the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) for a change of date for the game to June 10 to accommodate the Argentina-Singapore friendly. This request was subsequently approved.

The FAS’ initial plan was to play the Taiwan game at the National Stadium. However, because the Scotland-Italy test has been confirmed, the Lions will not be able to do so.

Instead, the game will be held at either the Jalan Besar Stadium or Bishan Stadium if the request from both countries is to play on grass instead of artificial turf. This is why the venue for the game has yet to be announced on the AFC’s website.

Sundramoorthy’s Lions pulled off an impressive and morale-boosting 0-0 away draw with Bahrain in their first qualifier on Tuesday, and they will be looking to build on that momentum with a win against Taiwan on June 10, in their bid to qualify for the 2019 Asian Cup finals for the first time in Singapore’s football history.

Singapore last played in the Asian Cup finals in 1984, when the Republic hosted the tournament and did not have to qualify.

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