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By ESPN Staff

Messi's debut dream turns sour

MADRID, Aug 18 (Reuters) - Argentine teenage prodigy Lionel Messi said his debut for the full national side had turned into a nightmare after he was sent off just two minutes after coming on as a substitute against Hungary on Wednesday.

The 18-year-old Barcelona forward, top scorer when Argentina won the World Youth Cup in the Netherlands in June, was shown a red card by referee Markus Merk less than a minute after he came on as a substitute during the second half of his team's 2-1 win for elbowing Hungarian defender Vilmos Vanczak.

Vanczak earned himself a yellow card for pulling the youngster's shirt as he surged through the Hungarian defence.

'It wasn't the way I dreamed it would be,' Messi told reporters on his arrival at Barcelona airport on Thursday.

'I passed him (Vanczak) and he just grabbed me and I wanted to free myself so I could carry on and the referee judged that I had elbowed him.

'I was really disappointed as I had a lot of minutes left still to play, but what happened, happened.'

Coach Jose Pekerman had said he wanted to see Messi in action with the senior team to evaluate whether to include him in Argentina's World Cup squad for Germany next year.

Messi will be hoping he is not now overlooked for several years, a fate that fell to 2002 World Cup veteran Kily Gonzalez.

Kily was also sent off on his Argentina debut after only three minutes as a substitute in a 1-1 draw against Brazil in Buenos Aires in November 1995 when Daniel Passarella was coach.

He waited nearly four years for his second cap, under Marcelo Bielsa against Mexico in Chicago in June 1999.

Pekerman, however, praised Messi saying: 'This happened to Lionel for wanting to play, for going on the attack.'

Argentine and Spanish newspapers reported that the disconsolate Messi was found crying in a corner of the dressing room at the end of the game.

Striker Hernan Crespo said Merk's decision to send the youngster off had ruined the friendly.

'It wasn't the same after the sending off,' he said. 'When Messi came on we were all aware that something had changed and a magical player had come on the pitch, but the match was destroyed after that.

'It was very tough for him. Imagine that happening to an 18-year-old. The referee made a mistake and took a very long time before showing the red card.

'The sending off angered us and affected the team's spirits and its performance.'