Argentina routs Iraq 4-0 despite Messi's absence

Argentina's Franco Cervi celebrates scoring his side's fourth goal during a friendly soccer match between Argentina and Iraq at Prince Faisal bin Fahd stadium in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. (AP Photo)
Argentina's German Pezzella celebrates scoring his side's third goal during a friendly soccer match between Argentina and Iraq at Prince Faisal bin Fahd stadium in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. (AP Photo)

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Argentina, without star striker Lionel Messi, thrashed Iraq 4-0 in a friendly on Thursday with goals from Lautaro Martinez, Roberto Pereyra, German Pezzella and Franco Cervi.

Inter Milan forward Martinez struck his first goal for his country to give Argentina the lead in the 18th minute at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd stadium.

Pereyra added the second goal in the 53rd before Pezzella and Cervi struck in the final eight minutes.

The friendly marked the return of goalkeeper Sergio Romero, who was forced out of the 2018 World Cup with a knee injury.

Coach Lionel Scaloni said last month that Barcelona forward Messi, 31, would not be called upon for Argentina's brief tour of Saudi Arabia.

Scaloni added that he wanted to focus on blooding younger players.

"I stressed our will to win the match, to attack non-stop and to keep scoring goals," he said after Thursday's game. "It was a good test, we are happy with it."

Argentina next meets arch rival Brazil at the King Abdullah Sports City stadium in Jeddah on Tuesday.

"We will park the bus, defend," Scaloni joked. "Actually we want to play well, fight for it, no doubt."

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More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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