Messi enters World Cup as Argentina playSaudi Arabia

เวลาปล่อย:2022-11-22 11:05 ที่มา: ต้นฉบับ เรียกดู:

Messi enters World Cup as Argentina plays Saudi Arabia

Lionel Messi walks the field during a training session of Argentinas national soccer team in Doha, Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Jorge Saenz)

Lionel Messi walks the field during a training session of Argentinas national soccer team in Doha, Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Jorge Saenz)

DOHA, Qatar (AP) Lionel Messibegins his legacy-definingWorld Cupwith a game against likely the weakest opponent the Argentina star will face in Qatar.

On a 36-match unbeaten run, Argentina opens the group stage Tuesday against Saudi Arabia the second lowest-ranked team at the tournament.

It seems like an ideal chance for Messi to push his international goals tally toward a century he currently has 91 in whats surely a forlorn attempt to catch the leading mens mark of 117, owned by great rivalCristiano Ronaldo.

How Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni treats Messi for this game in particular, being staged in the 80,000-seat Lusail Iconic Stadium, might be instructive given the captains fitness has been managed heading into the World Cup.

Messi trained individually on Friday and Saturday because of what the Argentina soccer federation described as muscle overload. That raises doubts over whether Messi will play the full 90 minutes against Saudi Arabia.

Not that he should be needed that long.

The Saudis might have come through Asian qualifying relatively comfortably, but they tend to struggle on soccers highest stage, reaching the last 16 only once in their five appearances at the World Cup.

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They started the 2018 tournament with a 5-0 loss to Russia, the host nation.

Then again, Argentina opened that World Cup with a disappointing 1-1 draw with tiny Iceland in a match which saw Messi have a penalty saved that immediately put pressure on the Albiceleste.

Thats something the team is eager to avoid again.

I missed, we drew and then the mess came, Messi recalled in a recent interview. The first game is key because if youre going to play Mexico with the three points from the Saudi Arabia game, its something else.

Its unlikely the Argentines will trip up this time. Copa America champions in 2021 for their first major title in 28 years, a national-record unbeaten run one short of tying the world record set by Italy from 2018-21.

Scaloni,Argentinas somewhat accidental coach, has turned his team into an extremely well-balanced unit and back to being a major force in world soccer. Where, many believe, it belongs.

Messi is obviously the star at the center of everything and islooking to finally win the World Cupto boost his standing as arguably soccers greatest ever player.

By playing against Saudi Arabia, Messi will become the first Argentine player to play in five World Cups one more than Diego Maradona and Javier Mascherano.

Scaloni has had to contend with injuries to midfielder Giovani Lo Celso and forwards Nicolas Gonzalez and Joaquin Correa in the lead-up to the World Cup.

Saudi Arabia is set to be well-backed at the World Cup because it shares Qatars only land border to the outside world, and fans will drive across in their droves to attend the match taking place at the tournaments biggest venue.

Under French coach Herv Renard, the Saudis have been in preparation for several weeks after domestic competitions were paused so players could focus on the World Cup.

We are ready for this fabulous tournament, Renard said.