MOSCOW • Fire and ice will collide today when Lionel Messi's Argentina seek to put a shambolic World Cup build-up behind them in their opener against Iceland at Moscow's Spartak Stadium.
Argentina arrived in Russia dogged by poor form, injuries and controversy. But Argentinian Carlos Tevez has warned the two-time champions' rivals that Messi is ready to win his first World Cup.
Messi was devastated by Argentina's loss to Germany in the 2014 World Cup final, with the agony compounded by back-to-back Copa America defeats by Chile in 2015 and 2016. Tevez was at the 2015 tournament but was left out of the latest squad.
The Boca Juniors striker told Corriere della Sera: "I am sure that this is Messi's World Cup. He has a lot of anger in his body, even if he does not show it... I expect a great World Cup. Argentina are one of the favourites. Only Germany and Brazil are at our level."
On paper, the South Americans should have little trouble disposing of Group D opponents Iceland. But Messi will not tolerate complacency against the minnows.
"Iceland showed they could compete with anyone at the last Euros," he said, referring to their run at Euro 2016, where they earned a 1-1 draw with Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal and dumped England 2-1 to reach the quarter-finals.
Argentina reserve goalkeeper Nahuel Guzman said the squad would do everything in their power to give Messi the success he craves but they are expecting a tight match against Iceland.
"We must show patience and move the ball around to try and find space, and look to get in behind with speed," said Guzman.
Argentina only made it to the Finals courtesy of a Messi hat-trick in their final qualifier against Ecuador. Subsequent friendlies have given cause for concern - there was a 4-2 loss to Nigeria in November and a 6-1 humiliation by Spain in March.
Their final warm-up against Israel in Jerusalem was cancelled after protests from Palestinians, leaving players short of match practice.
But at least they still have Messi.
"He can carry the team on his shoulders," Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli said of the player who scored 45 goals in 54 games for Barcelona last season. "This is going to be his team."