Lionel Messi recognizes a threat when he sees one on the soccer field.
The Argentina and FC Barcelona superstar named the teams he believed are contenders to win the 2018 FIFA World Cup on Tuesday in an interview with FOX Sports Argentina. Remarkably, he didn’t include his own side among the favorites, even though it narrowly lost to Germany in extra time in the 2014 World Cup final and still has one of the sport’s greatest-ever players as its captain (himself).
“Right now we’re not among the contenders to win the World Cup,” Messi said, per ESPN. “There are much better teams like Spain, Germany, Brazil and France.”
Despite the self-given underdog status, Messi and Co. are keen to avenge the 2014 heartbreak end Argentina’s 25-year trophy drought.
“We want to get rid of the bad taste and win the World Cup,” he said. “To be so close and not being able to lift the trophy on previous occasions was a disappointment for all of us. We have a debt with ourselves (the players). We don’t owe the fans anything because we always give our 100 percent. We’ve gotten to three finals (World Cup 2014 and Copa Americas 2015 and 2016.”
And the Argentina team Messi will lead this summer in Russia will pursue World Cup glory with an acute sense of urgency.
“We feel that it’s now or never,” Messi said. “Because this is it, we have to think that this could be the last for this group of players.”
Although Messi doesn’t count Argentina among the World Cup favorites, his statement about the “debt” the players owe themselves is key to his statement. Experts might not believe Argentina can win, but the confidence of the 23-players on each team will weight much more heavily on the outcome than pre-tournament predictions.
Messi doesn’t need to say it explicitly, but Argentina possesses more than enough self-belief to beat the win the World Cup.
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