Buenos Aires: Argentina defender Javier Mascherano has called upon his national teammates to pull together and put their best foot forward in the absence of skipper Lionel Messi.
Messi was sidelined for up to eight weeks when he picked up a knee injury in Barcelona's victory over Las Palmas in a La Liga match in September, meaning he has not been included in his national squad for their upcoming World Cup 2018 qualifiers against Ecuador on October 9 and Paraguay on October 14.
His countryman and clubmate Mascherano will subsequently take Argentina's captain's armband for those two matches, and he is hoping the team can rally together without their talisman.
"We are going to need more than everyone, but we are missing the most important player that we have. We've lost him before and the team responded," Mascherano was quoted as saying by goal.com on Monday.
"It's always important to have Messi. We are not going to have him and it has to be an objective to take a step forward and not an excuse,” he said.
"These things happen, we must recover in the best way and pull forward. We will try to make sure Leo's absence is not an excuse," the 31-year-old added.