BUENOS AIRES (AFP) – Argentina captain Lionel Messi admitted Monday that his generation has a score to settle at the World Cup in Russia after a series of agonising near misses in major tournaments.
“The debt we owe is to ourselves, not to the people. We always give our all, we reached three finals. We haven’t been far off,” Messi said in an interview with Fox Sports.
Argentina lost the 2014 World Cup final to Germany 1-0 after extra time and then finished runners-up at successive Copa America tournaments, losing to Chile on penalties in both 2015 and 2016.
“We always take each World Cup as a big opportunity, and now more than ever because an important generation will move on, several players will change,” Messi explained.
Vice-captain Javier Mascherano has already announced he will retire from international duty after the World Cup, while Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria and Gonzalo Higuain will all be 30 come the finals.
Messi will turn 31 during the competition. He has yet to make a decision on his Argentina future but would be 35 by the time of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
“(In Russia) it will be a good opportunity. Argentina is always a candidate for the title because of its image, its history. But this year, we are not favourites,” Messi added. “Spain, Brazil, Germany and France are above us.”
Argentina, who beat Italy 2-0 in Manchester last Friday, will play Iceland, Croatia and Nigeria in Group D at the World Cup.
The country last lifted the trophy in 1986 when Diego Maradona was named player of the tournament.