Messi-led Argentina arrive in Israel for Uruguay friendly

Tel Aviv (AFP) –


Lionel Messi and his Argentina teammates arrived in Israel Sunday ahead of a friendly match against Uruguay, nearly 18 months after his side cancelled a match against the Jewish state.

A live webcast showed the team disembarking from their flight at Ben Gurion airport, near Tel Aviv, and boarding a team bus on the tarmac, without speaking to cameramen.

The two South American giants will face off on Monday evening in a match expected to pit Messi against his Barcelona strike partner Luis Suarez.

Uruguay arrived in Israel on Saturday.

The match follows the cancellation of a pre-World Cup friendly fixture between Argentina and Israel in June 2018 after boycott calls.

That planned match was due to be played in Jerusalem, sparking Palestinian anger and criticism of Argentina online.

Israel considers Jerusalem its "indivisible" capital, while Palestinians claim the eastern part of the city -- occupied by Israel in 1967 and later annexed -- as the capital of their future state.

The Palestinian Football Association has not complained about Monday's friendly game, which is being held in Tel Aviv.

The BDS movement, which calls for a boycott of Israel over its policies towards Palestinians, condemned the fixture.

Messi received a three-month international suspension for comments he made after Argentina were eliminated from the Copa America in July.

He accused CONMEBOL, the governing body of South American football, of corruption and fixing the tournament for hosts and eventual winners Brazil.

He returned to the national team on Friday, scoring the winning goal in a 1-0 friendly victory over Brazil held in Saudi Arabia.