The Telegraph
Friday , June 6 , 2014
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Messi is ready: Sabella

Lionel Messi

Buenos Aires: Lionel Messi was goal-less in the 2010 World Cup, he was goal-less on Wednesday as well when Argentina cruised to a 3-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago. But neither the superstar nor his coach, Alejandro Sabella, is worried.

On the contrary, the world is still very much at the Argentine’s feet. Messi was paid a curious tribute as Trinidad’s Ataullah Guerra made a flamboyant bow in front of Argentina’s captain before the kick-off.

Messi missed several chances in the first half, was repeatedly fouled and hit the post with a free-kick from which midfielder Javier Mascherano tapped in Argentina’s second goal. Rodrigo Palacio, replacing the injured Gonzalo Higuain, headed the opener on the stroke of half-time and substitute Maxi Rodriguez completed the win in the 64th minute.

Messi has only one goal to his name at two World Cups, scored in a 6-0 rout of Serbia and Montenegro on his tournament debut at the 2006 finals in Germany. He went goalless in five matches at the 2010 finals in South Africa.

But going to Brazil, Messi is full of optimism. “We finished strongly, Trinidad and Tobago were opponents who closed up at the back like some teams in the group will do at the World Cup. The main thing was to avoid injuries and catch some rhythm and confidence for what’s ahead,” Messi said after Wednesday’s match.

Messi has had an injury-interrupted season, but Sabella insisted that his main player was fit and ready to perform in Argentina’s bid to win their third World Cup.

“I can see that Messi is in good shape, happy and willing to work with all of us in order to have the best World Cup. He is ready,” he said.

Sabella shares Messi’s confidence and has revealed his excitement at the prospect of seeing what his side’s attacking players can do.

Sabella’s 23-man squad boasts the fearsome strikeforce of Messi, Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria, and the 59-year-old can’t wait to get them on the pitch in Brazil.

“There are some great players in this team, most of all the forwards,” said Sabella.

“Messi, Higuain, Aguero and Di Maria… With them you are enthusiastic, I can’t deny that even I am. Every fan is excited by the prospect of watching these players when they are in form,” he added.

Sabella has been ruthless in selecting his World Cup squad and players like Carlos Tevez and Ever Banega have missed out. But the coach has Messi’s support. “Players who didn’t make the final squad? It was hard, Ever is a close friend of mine, but the coach has to make decisions,” Messi said after the win.

Argentina play a final warm-up at home to Slovenia in La Plata on Saturday before meeting Bosnia, Iran and Nigeria in Group F in Brazil.