Argentina forward Lionel Messi lunges for the ball next to...

Argentina forward Lionel Messi lunges for the ball next to Guatemala midfielder Marco Dominguez during the first half of an international friendly soccer match, Friday, June 14, 2024, in Landover, Md. Credit: AP/Nick Wass

LANDOVER, Md. — Lionel Messi scored twice and assisted on another goal in his first international start since November and Argentina outclassed Guatemala 4-1 on Friday night to complete its 2024 Copa America preparations.

Messi went the full 90 minutes for manager Lionel Scaloni after playing 35 off the bench in a 1-0 win over fellow Copa America contenders Ecuador on Sunday in Chicago.

He previously missed a pair of international friendlies in March with a hamstring issue that has also contributed to his half-dozen absences for Inter Miami in MLS play.

But his sharp performance Friday — in which he also struck the woodwork with a free kick and contributed to a sequence leading to a penalty kick goal — should ease Argentine concerns ahead of next Thursday’s group play opener against Canada in Atlanta.

Lautaro Martinez also scored twice for the defending Copa America and World Cup champions against a Guatemala side that sits 108th in FIFA’s world rankings. That included Argentina’s goal from the penalty spot, a role Messi typically assumes during tournament play.

Guatemala took a surprise lead in the fourth minute when Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez redirected a chance resulting from a free kick only as far as defender Lisandro Martinez, who inadvertently bundled the ball across the goal line.

The lead lasted only eight minutes before Messi tied it when Guatemala goalkeeper Nicholas Hagen's errant pass found the eight-time Ballon d'Or winner directly in front of an open goal about 12 yards out.

Argentina forward Lionel Messi (10) falls down next to Guatemala...

Argentina forward Lionel Messi (10) falls down next to Guatemala defender Nicolas Samayoa (3) during the first half of an international friendly soccer match, Friday, June 14, 2024, in Landover, Md. Credit: AP/Nick Wass

In the 38th minute, Messi's feed sprung Valentin Carboni into the right side of the penalty area, forcing Guatemala defender Nicolas Samayoa to haul down the winger with a sliding challenge that resulted in Lautaro Martinez's penalty.

Martinez had his second in the 66th minute after Enzo Fernandez's ball over the top found Messi, who provided a perfect, one-time service back across goal.

Messi finished the scoring in the 77th, chipping Hagen after playing a slick give-and-go with Angel di Maria.

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