Messi gets another shot at a major title with Argentina
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — After so much disappointment in major tournaments, Lionel Messi has another opportunity to win a title for Argentina at the Copa America.
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 America finals — in 2007, 2015 and 2016.
The last time Argentina won an international title was at the 1993 Copa America, when Messi was 6 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 Argentina 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 Cesar 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 Aguero and Angel Di Maria 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 America.”
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 semifinals.
Aguero 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 Boca Juniors rival Esteban Andrada.
Another Manchester City player, Nicolas Otamendi, will be in the middle of the defense alongside Renzo Saravia, German Pezzella and Nicolas Tagliafico. Argentina’s midfield will likely have Roberto Pereyra, Giovani Lo Celso and Leandro Paredes.
Argentina will play its opening match against Colombia in Salvador. Paraguay and Asian champion Qatar are also in Group B.