Former France defender Marcel Desailly says Argentina are favourites to win the 2014 Fifa World Cup and believes coach Alejandro Sabella’s men can do without four-time World Player of the Year in Brazil.
Super Eagles Group F opponents, Argentina, has been tipped by many as the team to beat in the 20th edition of the world football showpiece, notably in cognizance of their new-found attacking blend of Messi and Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero, who scored 17 Premier League goals last season- despite injury.
Napoli’s Gonzalo Higuain offers more options upfront, while back-up strikers, Rodrigo Palacio and Ezequiel Lavezzi, are marksmen who would be happy to drop back and help out the marking down the flanks, where the South Americans can be so vulnerable.
“I do believe that Argentina will win the World Cup, when you look at their individual players and how collectively also they are capable of playing, the Ghana-born Frenchman who won the 1998 World Cup with the Les Blues”told Laureus.com.
“They are an amazing team with all the players that they have – Aguero, Higuaín, di María, Zabaleta, Demichelis, as well as Messi. I am sure collectively Argentina will be able, with Messi at top or without Messi at his best, to win the World Cup.
“I believe if Argentina protect the defence, they will succeed.”
In the last World Cup, it was widely believed coach Diego Maradona destroyed the balance of the side he had created by concentrating too much on the his attack formation.
Desailly added: “In South Africa, I think they lost the possibility to go on to the final stages because their coach did not put the players correctly on the pitch, on the tactical aspect. He went too offensive and did not protect his back four. Because the weakness of Argentina is the back four.”
Messi dropped deep to try to serve as a out-and-out playmaker, while out-of-favour Juventus striker Carlos Tevez found a place in the attack but failed to impress.
Messi has been criticised often times for not turning out for his country as he does for Barcelona, with whom he has just signed a multi-million pound contract, but Desailly disagrees.
“When you talk about Argentina, obviously you talk about Messi, where we have been a bit disappointed about his performance in the past World Cup,” Desailly, who won the Champions League with Marseille and AC Milan explained.
“I am sure Messi has a problem because the tactical set-up is not made for him.”
He however believes the team can do without Messi.
“Honestly I see Argentina playing without Messi,” said Desailly. “Yes, when you look at their attacking potential. You can say that Messi can have a problem for two, three, four games during the World Cup.
“But they can handle it because Aguero, when he is at his best, can perform and Higuaín has skill and great ability. Honestly, Messi is not specially the key player of Argentina, you will see.”
Nigeria will play Argentina at the Estadio Beira-Rio in Porto Alegre on June 25.