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Messi scores as Argentina routs UAE 5-0 in World Cup warmup

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ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Lionel Messi played the entire game in Argentina’s final World Cup warmup and scored in a 5-0 rout of the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday as the pre-tournament favorites stretched their unbeaten run to 36 games.

Messi scored his team’s fourth goal right before the break, having also set up Julián Álvarez to open the scoring in the 17th minute. Angel di Maria scored twice in between.

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni made four changes at halftime but opted against resting his star player, leaving Messi on for the full 90 minutes.

Inter Milan forward Joaquín Correa scored the visitors’ fifth goal on the hour mark.

Argentina starts its World Cup tournament against Saudi Arabia on Nov. 22. It also faces Mexico and Poland in Group C.

“We’re confident,” midfielder Rodrigo De Paul said. “But for many it will their first World Cup so the first game will be very important.”

Earlier, Andrej Kramarić’s late goal was enough for Croatia to beat Saudi Arabia 1-0 in Riyadh.

Croatia star Luka Modrić played only the last 25 minutes, enough to set up Kramarić for the winner in the 82nd. Kramarić still had to elude five Saudi defenders before scoring his 20th international goal inside the far post.

Croatia coach Zlatko Dalić began with an unfamiliar lineup and gradually brought on his established players. Chelsea midfielder Mateo Kovačić, Hoffenheim forward Kramarić, Tottenham midfielder Ivan Perišić and Real Madrid’s Modrić all came on in the second half.

Saudi Arabia’s French coach Hervé Renard also made numerous second-half changes. His team has a tough task in Group C against Argentina, Mexico and Poland.

Croatia is in Group F along with Belgium, Canada and Morocco.

Germany was playing in Oman later, while Poland faced Chile for its last World Cup warmup. Mexico and Sweden were to play in Girona, Spain after that.

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AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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