Fiji Time: 4:05 PM on Friday 29 July

Fiji Times Logo

/ Front page / Sport

Messi's form to inspire Argentina

Afp
Sunday, May 18, 2014

BUENOS AIRES - The scintillating form of Lionel Messi and the steady hand of coach Alejandro Sabella have left many believing that Argentina are ready to end their long wait for a third World Cup crown.

The South American giants have regularly been favourites heading to recent World Cup finals, only to wilt under pressure once the action starts.

Successive squads bristling with world-class talent have rarely delivered, meaning 28 years have passed since a Diego Maradona-inspired Argentina last lifted the trophy — in Mexico in 1986.

There are several signs this year that it could be different.

In stark contrast to their turbulent qualifying campaign in 2010 under Maradona's management, when they only just obtained one of the automatic places in South Africa, Argentina waltzed through the qualifying competition for Brazil.

They booked their place with two matches to spare, destroying Paraguay 5-2 away in Asuncion with a display of attacking football that will serve as a warning to Group F opponents Iran, African champions Nigeria and debutants Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Key to Argentina's path to the finals was the form of Barcelona star Messi, revelling in the captaincy role handed to him by Sabella after the wily former Estudiantes coach's appointment in 2011.

Messi was Argentina's top-scorer in qualifying, notching 10 goals in 14 games, suggesting the 26-year-old maestro had finally nailed suggestions of being unable to reproduce club form in the international arena.

Messi's club form of late has not been great, and he has been hampered by injuries over the past 12 months, but his burgeoning form at international level is a testament to the faith that Sabella has placed in his captain.

Unlike Maradona — who unbalanced Argentina's attack at the last World Cup with the inclusion of striker Carlos Tevez - Sabella has built his side entirely around Messi.

"We need to make him feel comfortable and think about what's best for the team," Sabella has said of Messi. "And what's best for the team is, first and foremost, to make him feel comfortable."

As a result, Tevez has not featured for his country since the 2011 Copa America, when Argentina bowed out in the quarter-finals to Uruguay.

However, La Albiceleste are anything but a one-man band.

Sabella's squad contains several stars who would walk into most other starting XIs at the World Cup, such as Napoli striker Gonzalo Higuain, Manchester City duo Sergio Aguero and Pablo Zabaleta, Barcelona defender-cum-midfielder Javier Mascherano and Real Madrid winger Angel Di Maria.

Perhaps crucially, Argentina's team also contains a core of players who won the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in 2005.

Messi, Zabaleta, Ageuro and midfielder Fernando Gago were among those who featured in that triumph, fostering a tightly knit team spirit that could prove the difference in Brazil.

"At the national team, we have a solid group of friends," said Messi recently. "Some of us have known each other since we were little kids. That's something good."








Fiji Times Front Page Thumbnail

Kaila Front Page ThumbnailFiji Times & Kaila Frontpage PDF Downloads

Use the free Acrobat Reader to view.

Westpac
Code Inward TTs Outward TTs
CAD 0.64150.6225
JPY 51.982948.9829
GBP 0.36900.3610
EUR 0.44000.4280
NZD 0.69550.6625
AUD 0.65310.6281
USD 0.48960.4726

from

$0.00

Exchange Rate updated on 29th July 2016

Today's Most Read Stories

  1. 'Complete waste'
  2. Last lot to Rio
  3. Sevens unite
  4. Execs at loggerheads
  5. Edible bamboo import
  6. Farmers submit proposal
  7. Fearless Riwai
  8. $12.5m for minors
  9. Qiliho assures safety
  10. Agents of change

Top Stories this Week

  1. Sami's best try Saturday (23 Jul)
  2. Radio announcer in court Saturday (23 Jul)
  3. Tourist fined $400 for apples Tuesday (26 Jul)
  4. Fitter and faster Tuesday (26 Jul)
  5. Student jumps from school building Tuesday (26 Jul)
  6. Black money Monday (25 Jul)
  7. Mum rises above limits Wednesday (27 Jul)
  8. Allegiance switch Sunday (24 Jul)
  9. Alleged rape victim out of hospital Monday (25 Jul)
  10. Reaction from 7s players Monday (25 Jul)