Argentina coach Scaloni to miss WCup qualifier due to virus

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni will not travel for Thursday's World Cup qualifying match against Chile after testing positive for COVID-19.

Scaloni told a news conference Wednesday that his assistants Walter Samuel and Roberto Ayala will be in charge for the match. Argentina has already secured a spot at the tournament in Qatar, while Chile is still in contention.

“I am well, recovered. But the PCR remains positive," Scaloni said.

Argentina superstar Lionel Messi will also be absent as he continues to recover from the virus. Paulo Dybala is expected to be his replacement in the team's starting lineup.

“I talked to (Messi) after he tested positive for COVID. It affected him a lot, he had the roughest variant," Scaloni said. “It is important that he recovers, feels fit because there will be important moments ahead.”

The virus has also affected Chile, with defenders Mauricio Isla and Francisco Sierralta and winger Jean Meneses out.

Brazil and Argentina have both qualified for the World Cup, with two more automatic spots up for grabs in South American qualifying. The fifth-place team advances to a playoff against an Asian opponent. Only last-place Venezuela, with seven points, is out of contention.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports