Today in New Delhi, India
Mar 23, 2019-Saturday
New Delhi
  • Humidity
  • Wind

Russia 2018 can still be Lionel Messi’s FIFA World Cup – Diego Maradona

Argentina may have struggled through the group stage, but Diego Maradona feels the FIFA World Cup 2018 can still be Lionel Messi’s tournament.

football Updated: Jun 30, 2018 13:14 IST
Dejan Kalinic
Dejan Kalinic
OmniSport, Moscow
FIFA World Cup 2018,World Cup 2018,Diego Maradona
Argentina's forward Lionel Messi takes part in a training session at the team's base camp in Bronnitsy, on June 29, 2018 on the eve of the team's round of sixteen match as part of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. (AFP)

Diego Maradona believes the 2018 World Cup can still be Argentina star Lionel Messi’s tournament.

Argentina battled into the last 16 in Russia, needing a dramatic 2-1 win over Nigeria to clinch second spot in Group D with their first victory of the tournament.

Under pressure to win a first senior trophy with Argentina, Messi opened his account at Russia 2018 with a classy strike in that success.

Maradona, an Argentina great who won the 1986 World Cup, feels this year could still be Messi’s, as his nation prepare to face France in the last 16 on Saturday.

READ | FIFA World Cup 2018: Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli promises ‘aggression’ against France

“Yes, of course, it can be,” he told Marca when asked if it could still be Messi’s tournament.

“This is just beginning, it’s in diapers. Now is when we start playing.”

Maradona added: “No-one can retreat any more. The teams have to attack. If not, at most you go to penalties.”

The 57-year-old has taken centre stage in Russia, where he suffered a health scare during Argentina’s win against Nigeria.

The 91-time international said he would love to see Argentina meet Spain, where he played club football for Barcelona and Sevilla, in the World Cup final.

READ | Unpredictability of FIFA World Cup 2018 means all top teams in the mix

“I wish it were given, and it can be given the route they both go,” Maradona said. “And hopefully Argentina arrive at that, but there is still a long way to go.

“I have a lot of respect for France and Spain will not have an easy time against Russia either.

“Now is when all the players start their engines. Their dream is to win a World Cup and now they must prove it.”

First Published: Jun 30, 2018 13:09 IST