Lieberman says Messi missed penalty because of Israel game

Lieberman says Messi missed penalty because he missed Israel game
2 min read
16 June, 2018
Israel's right-wing defence minister has suggested that Lionel Messi's penalty miss against Iceland in the World Cup on Saturday was due to Argentina's withdrawal from a warm-up match against Israel.
Lieberman put Messi's poor performance down to Argentina's last-minute withdrawal from a friendly [Getty]
Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman has blamed Argentina's withdrawal from a warm up match against Israel for star striker Lionel Messi's disappointing start to his World Cup campaign.

Messi missed a penalty in Argentina's opening match on Saturday against Iceland in a match that ended in a shock 1-1 draw.

Lieberman put Messi's poor performance down to Argentina's last-minute withdrawal from a planned friendly match against Israel during the build-up to the World Cup in Russia.

The decision to pull out followed pressure on Argentina from pro-Palestine campaigners to boycott the match due to Israel's treatment of Palestinians, as well as its occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

"In the Argentina against Iceland game we saw just how much Messi needed the warm-up game against Israel," Lieberman tweeted shortly after the Argentinian missed his penalty in the 64th minute.

Messi – widely considered to be one of the best players in the world – failed to make much of an impression in the match against the Nordic underdogs, which was predicted to be a comfortable win for the Argentinians.

Israel's match against Argentina was initially supposed to be held in Haifa, but following political pressure the venue was switched to the contested city of Jerusalem.

Israel Culture Minister Miri Regev was blamed for the cancellation as she allegedly "politicised" the match by urging the game to be played in Jerusalem.

Israel has been keen to gain international recognition for its illegal occupation of East Jerusalem and claims to the contested city as its capital, something strongly opposed by Palestinians and most nations in the world.

Palestinian football federation chief Jibril Rajoub urged Argentina to cancel the game and urged a boycott of Messi – who is hugely popular among Palestinians - if the match went ahead.

Argentina are one of the favourites to win the World Cup but their draw against Iceland is a big setback in their campaign to lift the trophy.