Argentina has a ‘debt’ to settle at World Cup, says captain Messi
“The debt we owe is to ourselves, not to the people. We always give our all, we reached three finals. We haven’t been far off,” Messi said in an interview with Fox Sports on March 26.
Argentina lost the 2014 World Cup final to Germany 1-0 after extra time and then finished runners-up at successive Copa America tournaments, losing to Chile on penalties in both 2015 and 2016.
“We always take each World Cup as a big opportunity, and now more than ever because an important generation will move on, several players will change,” Messi said, ahead of a friendly against Spain. Vice-captain Javier Mascherano has already announced he will retire from international duty after the World Cup, while Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria and Gonzalo Higuain will all be 30 come the finals.
Messi will turn 31 during the competition. He has yet to make a decision on his Argentina future but would be 35 by the time of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
“[In Russia] it will be a good opportunity. Argentina is always a candidate for the title because of its image, its history. But this year, we are not favourites,” Messi added. “Spain, Brazil, Germany and France are above us.”
Argentina, who beat Italy 2-0 in Manchester on March 23, will play Iceland, Croatia and Nigeria in Group D at the World Cup. The country last lifted the trophy in 1986 when Diego Maradona was named player of the tournament.
Meanwhile, Iceland’s leaders will not attend the World Cup in Russia this year as part of an international response to punish the Kremlin for a nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy in England that the British government has blamed on Moscow.
Despite the tiny island nation of just over 300,000 people making it to the finals of the world’s biggest football tournament, there will be no Icelandic diplomatic presence at the World Cup, the Foreign Ministry said on March 26.
“Among the measures taken by Iceland is the temporary postponement of all high-level bilateral dialogue with Russian authorities,” a ministry statement said.