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Messi key to Argentina's World Cup hope

Dpa
Friday, April 18, 2014

BUENOS AIRES - Former Argentina coach Cesar Luis Menotti believes Lionel Messi can star at the World Cup like countryman Diego Maradona in 1986 but his form in Brazil "will depend a lot on the team."

Argentina will be depending on the Barcelona striker being at his best for the June 12-July 13 tournament as they seek a third World Cup title following wins in 1978 and 1986.

But Menotti, who led Argentina to the 1978 title, said he was not sure the current team would be able to support Messi enough for them to win the tournament.

"If the team works well, if the team defends well, if the team recovers the ball easily, if the ball goes through Messi's feet with a high percentage, he will have the chance to prove just how good he is," Menotti said.

"So far, the team has had several good things, and several that were not so good.

"So far the team does not play with the strength of an idea that has been fully absorbed and that has been practised as much as needed. It is very much based on the inspiration of its players.

"But there is also hope based on the fact that the coach will for the first time have the opportunity to have them all together for more than three days."

Menotti, also a former Barcelona coach, is now 75 and has not been active as a trainer since 2007, but football still dominates his office in central Buenos Aires.

Match videos and newspaper clippings pile up, and pictures of the man known as "El Flaco", alongside football legends such as Maradona, Pele, Michel Platini and Johan Cruyff, are displayed on the walls.

Looking at some of the other World Cup favourites, Menotti says hosts and five-time winners Brazil cannot be ignored.

"(Brazil) are always highly competitive, they are always candidates (to win the title), and they can be world champions. What I am not sure of is whether they will manage to play well," he said.





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