World Cup: Messi sees similarities between current Argentina side and 2014 finalists

Argentina's Lionel Messi said that he and his teammates would try to avoid the hype surrounding the team as the World Cup approaches. PHOTO: AFP

BUENOS AIRES – Lionel Messi believes the current Argentina squad can emulate and surpass the team that reached the 2014 World Cup final in Brazil.

The Albiceleste, who won their second and last title in 1986, meet Saudi Arabia in their Group C opener on Nov 22 and will also face Mexico and Poland in Qatar.

“At the 2014 World Cup, we performed very well. It was an unforgettable experience. It became clear to me that the most important thing is to be a strong and united group,” Messi told Argentinian newspaper Ole.

“Today I feel a lot of similarities between this group and the one from 2014. It is a group that always, whatever the match, plays with the same intensity and concentration.

“And we know that we are going to fight for (the title) but we are not thinking that we are going to be champions from the outset as Argentines think.”

Messi suffered heartbreak in that 2014 final after Germany’s Mario Gotze struck in extra time for a 1-0 win. This time, Argentina are again predicted by many to go all the way to the final at the Lusail Stadium.

Eight years on, Germany are in transition under coach Hansi Flick, who took over at the end of the European Championship in 2021, and one of their former stars believes the two South American teams are clear favourites.

“Brazil has played a very successful qualification campaign and, like Argentina, has the feeling of having to prove they can do better than in the previous World Cups,” Jurgen Klinsmann, 58, said.

Lionel Scaloni’s Argentina are unbeaten in 35 matches and won the 2021 Copa America, defeating Brazil 1-0 in the final at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro.

They are just two games shy of the record for the longest sequence of international matches without defeat, currently held by Italy.

“Beyond the fact that it is a nice statistic and a record that we can achieve if we reach our objective, it’s not something that we are thinking about,” Messi added.

“I’m sure the bad (games) are going to come at some point, and we are going to get through them. This group is prepared for that. Hopefully (the difficult games) won’t be so bad and we’ll advance.”

Besides Messi, Argentina have a wealth of attacking options like Manchester City’s Julian Alvarez, Inter Milan’s Lautaro Martinez, who scored 25 goals last season and has begun this campaign with eight in all competitions, and Paulo Dybala of AS Roma.

“They are proud to be called up and wear this jersey, let’s hope that you as fans are too. We’re in this together,” Scaloni said in an Instagram video.

Messi, who will be playing in his fifth and likely last World Cup, added that he and his teammates would try to avoid the hype surrounding the team as the tournament approaches.

“In terms of pressure, I think we have to isolate ourselves from everything that people are experiencing,” the Paris Saint-Germain player said.

“Although we have great hope, we are also realistic... We have to know that it is a World Cup, that it is very difficult and every single detail is important.” XINHUA, REUTERS

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