“I don’t know if we’re the favourites, but Argentina is always a candidate because of its history” — Lionel Messi

“I don’t know if we’re the favourites, but Argentina is always a candidate because of its history” — Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi, captain of Argentina, has said that he is counting down the days till the World Cup and that he feels his side has a strong chance of winning the tournament.

Messi, who will participate in his fifth World Cup in Qatar, told Star+ that he is worried yet optimistic about the tournament.

Argentina will travel in Qatar with strong confidence after winning the 2021 Copa America final against hosts Brazil. Messi feels the victory was a turning point for his team after a string of near misses.

“In a World Cup, anything can happen. All the matches are very tough. The favourites don’t always end up winning,” Messi said.

“I don’t know if we’re the favourites, but Argentina is always a candidate because of its history. Now even more so because of the moment we’re in, but we are not the favourites. I think there are other teams that are above us.”

The 35-year-old forward acknowledged this will be his last World Cup, adding that he was in terrific physical condition following a stronger preseason than last year, when he joined PSG from Barcelona.

Messi’s record with Argentina contrasts sharply with his success at club level.

Argentina was close to breaking its lengthy trophy drought three times, but lost to Germany in the 2014 World Cup final and Chile in the 2015 and 2016 Copa America finals.

“I have been playing with the national team for a long time now,” Messi said. “There have been spectacular moments, like in 2014, 2015 and 2016 but we didn’t win and were criticised for not being champions.

“We did everything right until the finals.”

Messi said that he was travelling to Qatar with an optimistic view as the senior statesman of a team packed of youthful talent that broke Argentina’s 28-year trophy drought with their Copa America win.

“It’s been very hard, but in 2019 a new group with many young people came and won the Copa America. That helped us a lot,” he added.

Argentina will play the United Arab Emirates in their last warm-up match in November before facing Saudi Arabia in their World Cup Group C opener on November 22. The other teams in the group are Mexico and Poland.

»“I don’t know if we’re the favourites, but Argentina is always a candidate because of its history” — Lionel Messi«

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