Following a memorable 2021, in which they ended a long drought by winning the Copa America and also sealed a place in Qatar 2022, Argentina head into the year of the World Cup in high spirits. But they will start it without Lionel Messi.

La Albiceleste, who are currently second in the South American Qualifiers standings, have five remaining games to wrap up their road to the upcoming World Cup. Their return to action will be on Thursday, Jan. 27, against Chile on the road before they host Colombia the following week.

Even though they have already achieved the main goal by qualifying for Qatar 2022, Lionel Scaloni's men don't want to slow down. Their next fixtures, however, will test themselves without the PSG superstar.

The reason why Lionel Messi is not playing for Argentina

It is quite unusual to see an Argentina roster without its best player. The former Barcelona star never wants to miss a game and the national team always wants to have him on board as well.

But this time they decided it was for the better for him to stay in Paris. Lionel Messi wasn't called up by Argentina after the federation and Paris Saint-Germain reached an agreement to not force him to play these matches.

Messi has tested positive for Covid-19 late last year and his return took longer than expected. On top of that, PSG have been unhappy with the time he's spent on international duty since he joined the club. With Argentina already qualified for the World Cup, they decided not to call him up and therefore improve their relationship with the French side.