Lionel Messi’s re­turn en­cour­ages Ar­gentina for match against Brazil

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

Lionel Messi is back from in­jury, just the tonic Ar­gentina needs in to­mor­row's World Cup qual­i­fier against Brazil.

Messi missed Ar­gentina's last three qual­i­fy­ing matches with an in­jured left knee, and the re­sults showed with draws against Peru and Venezuela, and a 1-0 loss against Paraguay.

"He (Messi) is ex­tremely in­tel­li­gent and has a great fin­ish­ing skill, so we have to do dou­ble mark­ing on him when­ever we can," Brazil mid­fielder Re­nato Au­gusto said. "We have to close the gaps for all Ar­gentina play­ers, and we have to re­move Messi's pass­ing an­gle when­ever he has the ball."

Thurs­day's match takes place in the same sta­dium where Brazil was hu­mil­i­ated two years ago in a 7-1 loss to Ger­many in the World Cup semi­fi­nals. But this time, the hosts will be fo­cus­ing on con­tain­ing Messi.

"It's im­pos­si­ble to stop the ball from reach­ing Messi be­cause he will start float­ing around to get it," Re­nato Au­gusto said. "We need to take him out of his com­fort zone."

Ar­gentina striker Lucas Pratto, who plays for Brazil­ian club Atletico Mineiro, said the Brazil­ians fear Messi.

"They know that Leo is very tough. They are a lit­tle scared," Pratto told Ar­gen­tine news­pa­per Ole. "Or maybe more than a lit­tle." Messi scored in a 1-0 vic­tory over Uruguay in Septem­ber in the only match he's played un­der Ar­gentina coach Edgardo Bauza.

Ar­gentina, World Cup run­ner­sup two years ago against Ger­many, is five points be­hind group leader Brazil. The Ar­gen­tines need points Thurs­day and next week in a dif­fi­cult match against Colom­bia.

Brazil leads qual­i­fy­ing with 21 points, fol­lowed by Uruguay with 20 and Ecuador and Colom­bia with 17. Chile and Ar­gentina have 16 points each.

The top four teams qual­ify au­to­mat­i­cally for the World Cup. The fifth-place team could ad­vance through a play­off.

Brazil has won four straight matches since coach Tite took over af­ter the five-time World Cup cham­pi­ons fired Dunga.

Tite will count on striker Ney­mar and right back Dani Alves for any new strat­egy to deal with Messi.

"(Brazil) has to do what it has been do­ing," winger Dou­glas Costa, "re­gard­less of Ar­gentina."

Ar­gentina's Lucas Pratto, left, and Pablo Za­baleta ex­er­cise dur­ing a train­ing ses­sion of the na­tional soc­cer team in Belo Hor­i­zonte

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malta

© PressReader. All rights reserved.