The Telegraph
Wednesday , June 18 , 2014
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We’re not among the best, says Leo

Lionel Messi

Belo Horizonte: Lionel Messi doesn’t count Argentina among the best teams in the World Cup.

The Argentina captain said his team committed too many mistakes in their 2-1 win over Bosnia and Herzegovina, including starting the game with two attackers instead of three.

“After seeing the first games, I think the best teams were The Netherlands and Germany,” Messi said on Monday. “We made too many mistakes in the first game and, the way we played, I don’t consider ourselves among the best teams.

“But then, there are still teams who haven’t shown what they can do and it’s difficult to draw conclusions from a single match. I think as the tournament goes on, teams will improve.”

The Netherlands stunned defending champions Spain 5-1 — a result Messi said no one expected — while Germany thrashed Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal 4-0 in their opening games.

Messi stopped short of criticising coach Alejandro Sabella, but said he hopes Argentina will stick with the three-man attack even against stronger opponents.

“We are Argentina and I think we have to focus on ourselves and not on who we’re facing,” Messi said. “Of course, depending on the result of a game we can change to another system. But, personally, I think we need to look at ourselves first and not focus on the rivals.”

Sabella started the match with Messi as one of two attackers in a 5-3-2 formation that the Barcelona star said left him and Sergio Aguero cut off from the game. Argentina played poorly and were lucky to be ahead 1-0 at half-time after an own-goal.

In the second half, Sabella let Messi drop behind Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain in 4-3-3 formation, a switch that paid dividends as Messi scored a brilliant goal following a 1-2 with Higuain.

“That’s how we’re used to playing. That’s how we played in most of the friendlies and qualifiers… Hopefully, Alejandro will stick with the three-man attack,” Messi said.

Asked why he thought Sabella chose to start the game with a more cautious line-up, he said: “You have to ask Alejandro. He makes the decisions and decided that we should go out to play that way... Maybe he was thinking he didn’t want to let the three points slip away.”

Attacking midfielder Angel Di Maria said he also preferred the three-forward attack.

“Playing with three forwards up front is much easier. For Leo, too, because he always has two players to pass to. And when I join up he has a third,” Di Maria said.

Sabella admitted his initial game plan didn’t work and that the half-time change allowed Messi to get more involved in the game.

Argentina play Iran in their second match on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Brazil legend Zico, the leading scorer in the history of Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Maracana Stadium, believes the venue deserved a goal by Messi as it celebrated 64 years of its inauguration.

“It was something the Maracana deserved. Many superstars, goals, stories and rivalries have helped paint the colour of this stadium and Messi’s goal was one of them.

“Argentina played very well in the second-half. When (Fernando) Gago came on, it gave Messi more freedom to play his game,” he said.

Zico, who scored 333 goals in 435 games at the Maracana, also gave his views on which teams he would like to see in the final at the same venue on July 13.

“Argentina have had the likes of (Alfredo) Di Stefano, (Diego) Maradona and now Messi while Brazil have had the likes of Pele, Garrincha, Ronaldo and now Neymar and so it would be wonderful to see Brazil playing Argentina in the final,” he said.

He also defended the new Maracana with many of his countrymen believing the stadium has lost its soul following its reconstruction for the World Cup.

“Of course, I miss the past, the large audience, but it’s over. Maracana is according to the needs of today’s football but for me it is still the same,” the 61-year-old said.

“We needed the conversion to adapt the stadium to current times. It is now more comfortable, but still as beautiful as it was in the past.”