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 here today.
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.
“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.
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.
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.”
Meanwhile, Iranian coach Carlos Queiroz said holding African champions Nigeria to a stalemate is one thing, but miracles will be required if Iran are to get anything from their World Cup Group F clash against Argentina.
“It will require a miracle since Argentina is one of the best teams in the world and also they have one day of rest more than we do,” the former Portugal coach was quoted as saying by the Telam News Agency.
“Messi could be the best player in the world if he was human, but as he is not human he does not enter the race.”
But it wasn’t just the four-time World Player of the Year, who scored a stunning goal in the opening 2-1 win over Bosnia, that was of concern to Queiroz.
“All the other players also worry me Argentina (Angel) Di Maria, (Gonzalo) Higuain, (Javier) Mascherano they all are great players.”
The two teams have met once before, a 1-1 draw in a friendly in Madrid in 1977 with a repeat result in Brazil highly unlikely with the Iranians having won only one match in three previous World Cup appearances.
Queiroz, though, will take heart from his side’s impressive defensive display in the 0-0 against Nigeria.AFP