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LATIN AMERICA | 30-11-2022 10:44

Polish coach praises Albiceleste ahead of critical matchup

"Since I was a little boy, I've always rooted for Argentina. They have great fans, a great team, and huge personalities," admitted Czeslaw Michniewicz ahead of Wednesday's game.

Argentina star Lionel Messi is football's answer to skiing great Alberto Tomba, Poland coach Czeslaw Michniewicz said on Tuesday.

Speaking ahead of Poland's final World Cup group stage match against Argentina in Doha, Michniewicz said his side would need to surround Messi to stop him.

"Messi on the pitch is like Alberto Tomba on the slope, he's able to avoid everyone like Tomba can get around everything," said Michniewicz.

"So we need to put players around Messi because if he can get around (them) easily he will easily score.

"One player cannot stop Messi, we must get players around him."

Even so, Michniewicz says that may not be enough.

"The whole world has been thinking for years about how to stop Lionel Messi, and he has made dozens of goals and assists," he added.

"I don't think we'll ever find the final answer to this question."

Poland have their own star striker in Robert Lewandowski, who is following in the Argentine's footsteps as the darling of Barcelona, where he has scored 18 goals in 19 games this season.

Many have billed this as the clash between Messi and Lewandowski, but Michniewicz does not buy into that.

"It's not only a match between Lewandowski and Messi. It's not tennis," said the coach.

"Robert needs his teammates, the same as Leo needs his. We rely on these great strikers but they cannot win on their own."

Argentine 'soft spot' 
Michniewicz admitted that as a fan he has long supported Argentina but said he would have no conflicting emotions during Wednesday's game.

"Since I was a little boy, I've always rooted for Argentina. They have great fans, a great team, and huge personalities, like Mario Kempes in 1978 and other players.

"There have been many ups and downs but I have always rooted for Argentina, although I won't tomorrow."

For his part, Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni admitted he has a soft spot for bitter rivals and neighbours Brazil, who have already qualified for the knock-out phases.

"I'm South American, and I'm happy that Brazil are through. I'm South American football's top fan," said Scaloni.

"If it isn't Argentina, I prefer that a South American team goes through. Anyone who thinks otherwise is mistaken.

"They (Brazil) are doing really well, and I congratulate them."

Argentina are at risk of missing out on the knock-out stages following their 2-1 defeat to Saudi Arabia in their opening Group C clash.

They must beat Poland to guarantee a place in the last 16, where there is a chance they could meet reigning champions France, who knocked them out at the same stage four years ago.

Asked if he would like to avoid playing France, Scaloni told journalists: "Firstly we have to go through. Then we'll see who we get.

"Without underestimating anything, there is still a way to go yet."

 

- TIMES/AFP

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