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Pochettino plays down Messi’s benching in win

PARIS—Paris Saint-Germain coach Mauricio Pochettino defended his decision to take off Lionel Messi as the former Barcelona man made his home debut in Sunday’s Ligue 1 game against Lyon.

Messi was outstanding in the first half at the Parc des Princes but began to fade from the game after the break and was replaced by Achraf Hakimi for the final quarter of an hour with the score 1-1 at the time.

PSG won 2-1 with a stoppage-time headed goal by substitute Mauro Icardi.

Paris Saint-Germain’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi (left) leaves the pitch after chatting with Paris Saint-Germain’s Argentinian head coach Mauricio Pochettino during the French L1 football match between Paris-Saint Germain and Olympique Lyonnais at The Parc des Princes Stadium in Paris. AFP
Paris Saint-Germain’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi (left) leaves the pitch after chatting with Paris Saint-Germain’s Argentinian head coach Mauricio Pochettino during the French L1 football match between Paris-Saint Germain and Olympique Lyonnais at The Parc des Princes Stadium in Paris. AFP
“Everyone knows we have great players, a squad of 35. It is my decision. We can only have 11 players on the field at one time,” Pochettino said.

“I only think about the best decision in each game, for each player, just as every coach does.

“We are here to make decisions. Sometimes people will be happy with them, sometimes they won’t be.”

Messi appeared to reject Pochettino’s hand as he walked past his coach towards the Paris bench.

Pochettino dismissed any suggestion the six-time Ballon d’Or winner was unhappy, saying: “I asked him how he was and he said he was fine.”

Messi, who hit the woodwork from a free-kick in the first half, is still looking for his first goal in a PSG shirt.

Meanwhile, FIFA has invited football’s national federations to an online summit on September 30 to discuss the international calendar, in its push to hold the World Cup every two years instead of four.

World football’s governing body wants to launch a “new consultation phase” for the international women’s and men’s calendar, set to expire at the end of 2023 and 2024 respectively.

“There is a broad consensus within the game that the international match calendar should be reformed and improved,” FIFA said in a statement Monday.

“Following invitations to stakeholders, including all confederations, at the beginning of September, discussions are being organised in the coming weeks.

“FIFA also invited its member associations to a first online summit on 30 September 2021. This is one of several opportunities to establish a constructive and open debate, at a global and regional level, over the coming months.”

The controversial proposal for a biennial World Cup was revived in March by former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, now head of global football development at FIFA.

The idea would be to have an international tournament each year from 2025-2026, alternating World Cups and continental tournaments like the European Championship and Copa America.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin is fiercely opposed to the proposal and threatened that European nations would boycott a biennial World Cup.

South American confederation CONMEBOL said the project had “no sporting justification”.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has promised decisions on staging a World Cup every two years would be made by the end of the year.

Last week FIFA published an online poll that claimed a majority of football fans support the idea of a “more frequent” World Cup.

The results of the survey came in stark contrast to the opposition of numerous national supporters groups worldwide.

Global players’ union FIFPro has denounced “the absence of a real dialogue” on the subject, pointing out the “natural physiological limits” of footballers. 

“Without the agreement of the players, who bring all competitions to life on the pitch, no such reforms will have the required legitimacy,” said FIFPro general secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffmann.

Topics: Paris Saint-Germain , Mauricio Pochettino , Lionel Messi , FIFA , soccer , football
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