Star striker Messi says Argentina should lay greater emphasis on attack against Iran
Belo Horizonte: Argentina captain Lionel Messi believes coach Alejandro Sabella has to back his side’s attacking capabilities and include him among a front three when they face Iran on Saturday in Belo Horizonte.
Lionel Messi (left) and Sergio Aguero of Argentina during a training session. Pic/AFP.
Napoli striker Gonzalo Higuain is expected to return to Sabella’s starting line-up as the two-time winners look to seal their place in the second round of the World Cup with a victory over Iran.
Higuain came on as a substitute to set up Messi to score just his second ever World Cup goal as Argentina got their campaign off to a winning start against Bosnia and Herzegovina in Rio on Sunday. And Messi said he feels more comfortable playing with both Higuain and Sergio Aguero in attack.
“We are Argentina and I think we need to concentrate on ourselves without fixating on who we are playing,” said the four-time World Player of the Year. “We feel more comfortable with two up front and me behind because it makes it easier to counter-attack and, because we have more people in attack, we have more possibilities.”
Messi eased some of the pressure on his shoulders to finally deliver his best form at a major tournament for his country with his stunning effort in the 2-1 win over Bosnia. However, his underwhelming first-half performance was still criticised by some and he admitted he needs to play closer to the opposition’s goal.
“In the first-half I found it difficult to get a hold of the ball and when I did I was very far from goal. “The truth is when I did have the ball I lost it a number of times and at other times I was playing it backwards. I was annoyed at not being able to play the game I had planned.”
Along with Higuain, Fernando Gago could return in midfield at the expense of Maxi Rodriguez as he too made a positive impression as a second-half substitute against Bosnia.
‘I live for this’
Javier Mascherano is also expected to win his 100th cap in midfield and insisted he is as hungry for success as he was on his international debut.
“I am not one of those players that makes the difference on the pitch, but more a player that sacrifices myself for the team. What is my secret? I live for this.” Iran made an encouraging start to their campaign too as they held African champions Nigeria to a 0-0 draw in Curitiba on Monday.
10: Argentina have won ten and lost just one of their last 13 World Cup group games