Tuesday, May 18, 2021

SPORTS | 06-06-2019 08:00

Messi gets one more shot at winning a major title with the Albiceleste 

Barcelona captain plays down national teams chances at the Copa América. But the tournament in Brazil is perhaps his best remaining chance to win something with Argentina.

After so much disappointment in major tournaments, Lionel Messi has another opportunity to win a title for the Albiceleste at the Copa América.

Messi has won dozens of club titles with Barcelona, and even took home a few trophies with Argentina's youth teams. But on the biggest stages in international soccer, Messi has come up short so far, losing in the 2014 World Cup final and in three Copa América finals – in 2007, 2015 and 2016.

The last time Argentina won an international title was at the 1993 Copa, when Messi was six years old. The team also reached the final in 2004 but lost again.

Now 31, there's no guarantee that Messi will still playing if Argentina qualifies for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. But he'll certainly be with the team this year in Brazil.

"Those that don't like me regrettably will have to keep waiting a little longer," Messi said in a recent interview.

Messi will be the leader of a renewed Albiceleste team that is coached by a man without much experience on the job. Interim coach Lionel Scaloni has five victories, one draw and two losses with the national team.

The man Scaloni needs to impress to keep his job is César Luis Menotti, a 1978 World Cup champion with Argentina who is now an official with the country's soccer association. Menotti has already praised other coaches, including Marcelo Gallardo (River Plate), Eduardo Coudet (Racing Club) and Hernan Crespo (Banfield), heaping pressure on Scaloni.

Any of those three others could be next in line if Scaloni fails to get the best out of his team in Brazil.

In Brazil this year, Messi, Sergio Agüero and Ángel Di María will be the only players remaining from the group that lost to Germany in the 2014 World Cup final.

"It is a logical change after an important phase, of important players, that did not win but made impressive things," Messi said. "Today I see a very united group, with dreams and willingness to win Copa América."

However, speaking Wednesday to TyC Sports, the Barcelona superstar played down Argentina's chances in Brazil. Messi insisted the team shouldn't be considered one of the favourites this time as the squad has plenty of young players entering their first major international tournament.

"We are not candidates like other times," Messi said. "We will go with the same dreams and excitement as always, but the reality is that Argentina is going through a process of change."

Messi will enter the tournament after winning another Spanish league title, but following a pair of brutal losses in cup competitions, including a 4-0 loss to Liverpool in the Champions League semi-finals.

Agüero and his Manchester City teammates also failed in the Champions League, but he still won three trophies in England, the Premier League, the FA Cup and the League Cup.

Others to make the team include Franco Armani, the River Plate goalkeeper who is expected to start over his Boca Juniors rival Esteban Andrada.

Another Manchester City player, Nicolás Otamendi, will be in the middle of defence alongside Renzo Saravia, Germán Pezzella and Nicolás Tagliafico.

Argentina's midfield will likely feature Roberto Pereyra, Giovani Lo Celso and Leandro Paredes.

The Albiceleste will play its opening match against Colombia in Salvador. Paraguay and Asian champion Qatar are also in Group B.



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