´Greatest´ Messi gives Argentina advantage in World Cup final, says Martinez

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Lionel Messi is the greatest player of all time, which will give Argentina the advantage over France in the World Cup final, according to Emiliano Martinez.

Messi’s appearance in Sunday’s clash at Lusail Stadium will make him the all-time record appearance maker in World Cup history (26), while he could also become the first player to score in the group stage, round of 16, quarter-final, semi-final and final in a single edition of the tournament.

Having also played a key role in Argentina winning the Copa America last year, Martinez thinks Messi will again be the difference maker.

“I see him very happy as does every Argentinian, he feels very well on the pitch,” the Albiceleste goalkeeper said.

“I saw a great Messi in the Copa America, he was exceptional and one of the best undoubtedly in the Copa America, and in this World Cup he took [another] step forward.

“He’s playing better, both physically and in football terms. It was quite difficult to get that Messi from the Copa, but he did it.

“He’s playing very well and it gives so much energy to the squad, because we have the greatest player. He’s excited, he’s full of joy and it helps us very much.”

Messi was joint-top scorer at the 2021 Copa America with four goals, and is also joint-top scorer at the World Cup with five, level with France’s Kylian Mbappe.

Martinez thinks defending champions France will be the favourites on Sunday, but believes Messi could tip things in his team’s favour.

He added: “Obviously when we won [the Copa America] in Brazil, they were the favourites.

“It is the same now, people can say France are favourites. But we have the advantage, to have the greatest player of all time.

“We always like to hear that the opponent is the favourite, because we don’t feel inferior or superior to anyone. But as I said, we have the greatest of all time and with a good defence we have a big chance to reach our goal.”

Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni had a more succinct view of Messi ahead of the game, with many expecting it to be the 35-year-old’s final World Cup of an illustrious career.

“We hope this will be his final match and that he can lift this trophy, but the most important thing is to enjoy Messi,” he said.

While the game is being billed as Messi v Mbappe, Scaloni does not want to focus on individuals, but thinks it will have to be a complete team effort for Argentina to lift their first World Cup since 1986.

“I think tomorrow’s game will be more of a collective effort, not an individual effort,” he said.

“Mbappe is a top player obviously but France also have a number of great players, they work for [Mbappe] and that makes him even better. Obviously he’s one of the top players, he’s still young so can improve for sure.

“The upcoming match will be beyond [Messi v Mbappe]. We have weapons, strengths, and the match will be defined by every player, not just these two.

“Messi is doing very well and we hope we win, but this is Argentina v France and there are many players who can define this game.”



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