Lionel Messi on national duty as Argentina kickstart title defence in FIFA World Cup Qualifiers

Football fans may recall vividly the 2022 FIFA World Cup final, but for the Argentine team, it is a thing of the past as La Albiceleste prepare to defend their title this week. 

Messi's team will face Ecuador in their first competitive match since winning the FIFA World Cup in December last year at the Estadio Monumental in Buenos Aires.

Messi will compete in his sixth World Cup qualifier this year. The encounter against Ecuador will also be Messi's first appearance for

Argentina since joining Major League Soccer (MLS) club Inter Miami earlier this summer.

The reigning champions will meet Bolivia in La Paz in their second World Cup qualifier.

Messi, a seven-time Ballon d'Or winner, was one of three MLS players chosen by Argentina team management for the first two rounds of World Cup qualifying. 

Argentina's World Cup qualifying squad includes Thiago Almada of Atlanta United and Alan Velasco of FC Dallas, in addition to Messi.

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni's 32-man squad includes high-profile players like as midfielder Angel Di Maria, defender Nicolas Otamendi, and Inter Milan attacker Lautaro Martinez.

With the added strain of defending the championship, Argentina may find the first round of qualifiers difficult.

Scaloni said during an interview with AFA Estudio that "the start is always complicated."

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