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Owen backs Messi & Co.

Hong Kong: Former England striker Michael Owen believes that the brilliance of Lionel Messi and the familiarity with the conditions in Brazil will help Argentina win the World Cup.

After a spectacular haul of trophies with Barcelona, Messi has a chance to lead Argentina to glory on the World Cup stage and build on his reputation as one of the all-time greats.

The four-time World Player of the Year has won a glittering array of club silverware and has established himself as one of the finest footballers to grace the game, but some believe he must win the World Cup before he can be hailed as a true great.

“They’ve got some fabulous players in (Angel) Di Maria and Messi, Higuain, and Aguero — lots of top-class players,” Owen said at a promotional here.

“I know Brazil is next door but I think they are playing basically in their home conditions and I think that this is Messi's time to shine on the world stage.

“Some people would argue that you can’t be considered the best player of all time unless you win the World Cup but I’m sure that he will want to perform very well.

“He’s obviously one of the best, either the best or the second best player in the world at the moment.”

Ruud Gullit, meanwhile, hopes a team from Africa will perform well and be the surprise package at the Cup, the former Dutch footballer said on Sunday.

Four years ago in South Africa, Ghana were the only one of the continent's six representatives to reach the knockout stage, where they beat the United States but lost to Uruguay on penalties in the quarter final.

Gullit, who played at the 1990 World Cup, but missed the 1994 competition after walking out of the pre-tournament training camp, picked hosts Brazil as the favourites.

“Well I think Brazil is favourite. They’re playing at home. There’s a lot of pressure on them to win it,” the 51-year-old said.

“I hope that Holland will do well, they have a less experienced team. They have a lot of youngsters in the team, especially defensively.

“I hope that an African country will do well. A lot of African countries have players that play in the Champions League, play in good teams in Europe.

“So maybe Ghana or Cameroon.”