Americans Respectful Of Messi Greatness
The daunting prospect of trying to contain Argentina forward Lionel Messi has just been made even harder after the two-time FIFA Player of the Year was handed a new license to thrill.
Argentina’s newly appointed coach Sergio Batista said on Friday he wants his lethal goal-scorer to expand on his traditional role as a specialist striker and get even more involved in the game. “What we want from him is to create (in) more games and not be just a striker,” Batista, speaking through a translator, told a news conference. “Out of 90 minutes, he will keep the ball the most that he can.”
Batista said his plans for Messi to become more involved were part of his overall strategy to help Argentina win this year’s Copa America and the next World Cup, in neighbouring Brazil in 2014, but he wants him to start roaming the field immediately. That could be bad news for the United States team that plays Argentina in a friendly on Saturday at the new Meadowlands Stadium but good news for the tens of thousands of fans who have snapped up tickets in the hope of seeing Messi produce something magical.
“He’s a joy to watch but not much fun to play against,” U.S. captain Landon Donovan said. “But this isn’t a game where we’re showing up with the other 65,000 people to watch Messi play. We want to win as well.” Donovan conceded there was no sure way his team could stop Messi, whose amazing goal-scoring feats for Barcelona and Argentina have earned him the tag as the world’s best player. “It makes it challenging but we enjoy that,” Donovan said. “The reality is there is no defender on our team, there’s likely no defender in the world, who can defend him one-on-one. We have to make sure that collectively we’re making it difficult for him.”
U.S. head coach Bob Bradley agreed there was no real way of containing Messi but he believed the match against Argentina was an important learning experience for his own team as they start preparing for this year’s CONCACAF Gold Cup. The Americans are also scheduled to host world champions Spain in Foxborough, Massachusetts on June 4. “We all know that this is just a special, special player,” Bradley said of Messi. “But I think we’ve benefited greatly in the last four years from playing against top teams. “Any time those teams come here, it makes it extra special because soccer fans in the U.S. love to see the top players and they appreciate it when we test ourselves against these sorts of teams.”