Messi strike shows value to Argentina

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The Independent Online

Another fine Messi. After all of the fuss about his call-up for national service on the Olympic front in China, Lionel Messi made a fine job of finishing the opportunity that put Argentina on their way to victory in their opening game in Shanghai yesterday.

The Barcelona forward scored with a neatly clipped left-footed finish two minutes before half-time in the Group A contest against Ivory Coast. He also teed up an 85th-minute goal for Lautaro Acosta that clinched a 2-1 win for the defending champions. All this less than 24 hours after the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that Barcelona, Schalke and Werder Bremen could recall their players from the Games.

Barcelona confirmed they would not be exercising that right after Messi expressed his desire to remain with his countrymen in China, and after the Argentina Football Association agreed to fund an expensive insurance plan that would pay the Catalan club substantial compensation in the event of their prized asset being injured.

Schalke and Werder also allowed Brazilians Rafinha and Diego to stay in China. Both played in a 1-0 win against Belgium yesterday.

Fifa said it was "surprised and disappointed" by the CAS decision, football's world governing body having ruled that clubs must release players aged 23 or under if a nation requested them.

The court ruled there was "no specific decision of the Fifa executive committee establishing the obligation for the clubs to release players under 23 for this tournament".