Argentina captain and Inter Miami star Lionel Messi may not play in the Copa America game against Peru Saturday night at Hard Rock Stadium, which surely would disappoint the expected sellout crowd.

The Argentine team clinched a spot in the quarterfinals late Tuesday night with a 1-0 win against Chile in front of 80,000 fans at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. Coach Lionel Scaloni said after the game that with a berth in the knockout round in hand, he plans to rest many starters for the third group stage game against Peru, which would indicate that Messi would not be in the lineup.

“Players who have not had a chance to play in the first two games will get a chance to play because I need to see them and because they deserve it,” Scaloni said.

Messi’s status for the game would have been in question anyway because he suffered an upper right thigh injury early in the Chile match. He had it massaged by a trainer on the field, remained in the game and played the full 90 minutes. According to TyC Sports, he was undergoing tests on Wednesday to determine the severity of the injury.

He missed six Inter Miami games at the end of last season due to injury and sat out four games early this season with a hamstring strain.

Messi confirmed during post game interviews Tuesday night that he was feeling discomfort in his right adductor/groin area.

“It bothers me a little bit, but I was able to finish playing,” he said. “I hope it’s nothing serious. It happened during the sprint on the first play. I didn’t feel a sharp pain, but it got stiff. It was hard to move freely. I felt discomfort. I’ll see how I feel (Wednesday).”

Messi also said he had a sore throat and a fever for a few days prior to the Chile game.

Asked about Messi’s injury, Scaloni said: “I didn’t speak with him after the game. He ended up playing through. You saw he had the 50-meter sprint there with Angel (DiMaria) and Lautaro (Martinez) and it’s the last image I have (in my mind). I can’t say more because I haven’t seen him.”

Argentina will win Group A barring a loss to Peru in Miami Gardens and a Canadian win over Chile in a game played simultaneously in Orlando.

The Canadians could edge Argentina for the group lead on goal differential, depending on the results of Saturday’s games. Argentina is on plus-three and Canada minus-one.

Messi, who has 12 goals and 13 assists in 12 games for Inter Miami so far this season, is scoreless in Argentina’s first two Copa America games. He had an assist in the 2-0 tournament opening win against Canada and has missed several scoring chances, including one that clanked off the outside of the post on Tuesday night.

Chilean defenders swarmed Messi the entire game, with two and often three players closing in on him in the final third of the field, making it difficult for him to find space to work his magic.

Chile, which had beaten Argentina on penalty kicks in back-to-back Copa America finals, was not intimidated by Messi and his teammates. The Chileans played physical, were called for 12 fouls and had two yellow cards. In the 24th minute, Gabriel Suazo fouled Messi from behind on the right touchline, and Messi called for the medical team. A trainer massaged his right adductor area for two to three minutes before play resumed.

“It was a well-deserved victory, the game was not easy, and it was won at the least expected moment as it seemed to be getting away from us,” Scaloni said of Lautaro Martinez’s 88th-minute game-winning goal. “But the team continued to believe, and continued to attack. Chile has been a very tough opponent for us. They are working very well, Ricardo (Gareca) is doing a great job.”

Chile and Peru are in third place in Group A through two games with one point apiece. Chile plays Canada on Saturday at 8 p.m. at Inter&Co Stadium in Orlando.

How to Watch Argentina vs. Peru

Kickoff is at 8 p.m. at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla.. The game will be show on FS1 in English and on Univision in Spanish.

©2024 Miami Herald. Visit Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.