Messi: Russia my last shot at World Cup glory

2017-12-07 01:53:42 GMT2017-12-07 09:53:42(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

By Michael Place

BUENO AIRES, Dec. 6 (Xinhua) -- Lionel Messi has admitted that next year's World Cup in Russia is likely to be his last chance to win a major international tournament for Argentina.

The 30-year-old Barcelona forward is still seeking his first senior trophy with the Albiceleste, having come painfully close in the past three and a half years as a losing finalist in the 2014 World Cup, 2015 Copa America and 2016 Copa America.

"People are waiting for this group to leave because it has not won for a long time and those who criticize get tired of always seeing the same faces," Messi told TyC Sports.

"I think it's the last opportunity for this group. There is a lot of excitement. If we do badly, the entire national team will have to disappear. It's going to be very difficult for anyone to continue because we have already been here for a number of years."

Argentina endured a torrid qualifying campaign in South America's CONMEBOL group, only securing a World Cup place in the last match against Ecuador in October with a Messi-inspired 3-1 victory in Quito.

The Albiceleste have been drawn in one of the toughest World Cup groups, alongside Iceland, Nigeria and Croatia.

In wide-ranging interview, Messi also added his voice to calls for Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli to include Juventus striker Gonzalo Higuain in his World Cup plans.

Higuain has yet to play a competitive match under Sampaoli, who took charge of the team on June 1.

But the 29-year-old has been in prolific form for Juventus this season, scoring nine goals in 14 Italian Serie A matches, and Messi believes his experience will be "vital" in Russia.

"Pipa has suffered a lot from criticism and we have talked about it a lot of times," Messi said.

"But I think that this time away from the national team has done him good, now he is seeing things in a different light. He has to be [in the team] because he is vital, he is one of the best forwards in the world and he always shows it."

Higuain has also found allies in retired Argentina greats Diego Maradona and Gabriel Batistuta.

In October, Maradona backed Higuain to force his way back into the team while Batistuta said the former Real Madrid striker had unfairly been made a scapegoat for Argentina's recent disappointments in major tournaments.

 

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