Argentina’s expectations of Messi in the World Cup

June 15, 2014 at 5:52 pm
Posted under: 2014 FIFA World Cup, Argentina, Argentina News, News, Popular
Four-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi enters the World Cup fray on Sunday, hoping he can at last add a major team title to all the individual honours he has accrued over the years.

Argentina's forward Lionel Messi takes part in a training session at Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on June 14, 2014 on the eve of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group F football match against Bosnia and Hercegovina.  AFP PHOTO / YASUYOSHI CHIBA
Argentina's forward Lionel Messi takes part in a training session at Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on June 14, 2014 on the eve of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group F football match against Bosnia and Hercegovina. AFP PHOTO / YASUYOSHI CHIBA

Messi spearheads a formidable Argentine side which is being talked about as the biggest threat to host nation Brazil’s hopes of winning a sixth title.

After disappointing in South Africa four years ago, Messi has a point to prove in Sunday’s Group F game against Bosnia at the Maracana Stadium.

France also set out on what is a voyage of redemption, to erase the shameful memory of the 2010 finals, as they face a tough physical battle against minnows Honduras.

But Argentina and France will have taken note that, despite being clear favourites for their respective matches, the tournament so far has seen little respect for reputations.

The Dutch team’s 5-1 dismantling of title holders Spain on Friday was followed by Costa Rica’s extraordinary comeback to defeat Copa America champions and two-time world Cup winners Uruguay 3-1 on Saturday.

England will also be licking their wounds and trying to rebuild morale after a 2-1 defeat to Italy on Saturday ahead of Thursday’s match with Uruguay, where defeat for either side would all but consign them to an early flight home.

Japan, too, face an uphill task to get their campaign back on an even keel after defeat to Ivory Coast with coach Alberto Zaccheroni admitting that they have their “backs against the wall.”

But all eyes on Sunday will feature on Messi, playing in his third World Cup and finally producing his Barcelona form for Argentina under coach Alejandro Sabella.

Argentina have not reached the semi-finals since 1990.

But with an attack force made up of Messi, Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero and Angel di Maria, they are the tournament favourites in the eyes of many.

Sabella has a doubt over Napoli striker Higuain, who has been carrying an ankle injury for the past month, and Paris Saint-Germain’s Ezequiel Lavezzi has been taking a leading stand-in role in training sessions.

Thousands of expectant Argentina fans have flooded Rio de Janeiro, confident that this time their side will lift the trophy for the third time.

“This is our first visit to Rio. The next one will be on July 13 for the final,” said 35-year-old River Plate fan Fernando.

France, for their part, have up to now been a much happier group under coach and 1998 World Cup-winning skipper Didier Deschamps than under Raymond Domenech four years ago.

The French side, though, are historically notoriously slow starters –they haven’t won their first match at a World Cup finals since 1998 –while Honduras have yet to win a game on their previous two appearances.

It is not that that is exercising Deschamps’ mind so much as the Central Americans’ reputation for their muscular style which led England captain Steve Gerrard to comment after a 0-0 draw in a friendly last weekend that their tackling was “horrific”.

Honduran coach Luis Fernando Suarez, though, said they had nothing to be ashamed of.

“Our attitude is to face the games with character, with hunger, because we are looking as a team to achieve our goals. That is our attitude and I think that is a good thing,” he said.

France will go into their game already knowing what the other favourites to progress from the group Switzerland have done.

They take on Ecuador in the first match of the day in what is their veteran coach Ottmer Hitzfeld’s final tournament.

Elsewhere Sunday, Germany suffered an injury scare after confirming that midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger was airlifted to hospital for treatment to his left foot.

However German officials said the knock was a pre-existing injury and would not rule him out of Monday’s Group G showdown with Portugal.

Sapa


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