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Lionel Messi medically cleared, set for Argentina debut in Copa America against Panama

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The best player in the world is back.

Lionel Messi will make his Copa América Centenario debut on Friday night, when Argentina take on Panama at Soldier Field, in Round 2 of the competition's group stage. The Barcelona superstar trained normally with his teammates for the past two days, and his presence was confirmed by coach Tata Martino in his pre-match press conference.

Messi suffered a hip injury in the last warmup friendly against Honduras after taking a knee to the back in the beginning of the second half. The Albiceleste captain was diagnosed with bone bruise, and the rehabilitation caused him to miss his national team's debut against Chile, last Monday. His absence wasn't harmful as Ángel Di María ran the show in a 2-0 win for Argentina.

It is unclear at the moment whether or not Messi is available for a 90-minute match in his return, and given the weakness of the opponent and the good run of form after a win against the defending champions, it will be surprising to see Leo starting the game. He is likely to come on in the second half to regain his fitness for the knockout rounds, since a victory against Panama will be enough to qualify Argentina for the quarterfinals.

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