The Argentine has announced the tournament in Qatar will be his last, having first appeared at a World Cup back in 2006. His best effort so far is a runners-up medal, which he achieved back in 2014 when Germany won the tournament. Messi and Argentina arrive in the Middle East among the favourites having won the Copa America last summer, beating Brazil in the final.
They are also in the midst of an unbeaten run that spans more than 30 games and have been paired in a group with Mexico, Poland and Saudi Arabia. A Messi victory is seen as the perfect fairytale with Enrique, who is in charge of Spain, but also worked with the forward for three years at Barcelona, believing the 35-year-old is due the trophy.
He said on Twitch: “If Spain doesn’t win the World Cup, I would like Argentina to win it because of Messi. It would be unfair for Messi to retire without winning a World Cup.”
The PSG star is trying to emulate Diego Maradona by leading his homeland to victory, with their last success coming in 1986 in Mexico. Messi doesn’t see the South American champions as the main contenders though, instead naming three teams as the outstanding outfits.
“Whenever we talk about candidates, we always talk about the same teams. If I have to put some above others I think Brazil, France and England are a little bit above the rest,” he told South American Federation CONMEBOL. “But the World Cup is so difficult and so complicated that anything can happen. We are very excited. We have a very nice group that is very eager, but we think about going little by little.”
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Enrique himself will be looking to lead Spain beyond the semi-finals, where they were knocked out in the Euros last summer by eventual champions Italy. The 2010 winners have quietly gone quietly about their business but are fancied by some to go deep into the competition playing their usual possession-based brand of football.
The former Barcelona boss has declared himself the finest manager on the planet, adamant that he has to have belief in his ability if he wants to coach his players adequately. “How can I doubt myself? I am the best coach on the face of the earth,” he said recently in a press conference. “If I have to convince my players I have to be convinced myself… There is no better coach than me. I know it’s not true, but I believe it. Doubts? None!”
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