Argentina captain Lionel Messi has named defending champions France and Brazil as the favourites to win the World Cup in Qatar, saying that they have a core group of players who have played together for a long time and already have a certain understanding.
Messi said Brazil, Germany, France, Spain and England are always labelled favourites to win, but the 35-year-old forward feels France and Brazil are about the best two teams going into the Nov. 20-Dec. 18 tournament.
Messi makes his pick
Asked about his favourites ahead of the competition, Messi said to DIRECT TV Sports: “We always say the same great teams … but, if I have to choose, Brazil and France are the two great candidates to win the World Cup”
“They’ve had the same group [of players] for a long time, working well. France, aside from the last Euros when they were eliminated [in the last 16] and did badly, they have some impressive players.”
“They have a clear idea and the same coach [Didier Deschamps]. Brazil is a bit the same [under Tite].”
Surprisingly or not, Messi did not mention his country Argentina, who are unbeaten in 35 matches, among the favourites even though Lionel Scaloni’s side won the Copa America last year by beating Brazil in the final.
However, Argentina have been badly hit by injuries to key players Paulo Dybala and Angel Di Maria, with both players now facing a race against time to be fit for the Mundial.
Elsewhere, Scaloni described club football’s fixture congestion in October as “terrible,” but motivated his players not to hold back to avoid the risk of injury ahead of the World Cup.
“We are in quite a difficult stage. The players are playing a lot of games,” Scaloni told AFAestudio. “There can be problems as there are injuries [and] suspensions. It’s part of being an elite player and a national team player.
“I worry, but there is little you can do. I believe that the player has to go out on the pitch to play and not think about what’s coming — it can be detrimental. Let them play naturally.”
Analyzing Messi’s picks
While France’s stock has seemingly dropped over recent years, Brazil are the bookies’ favourite this year and almost everyone has the South American nation as their top country to look out for as well.
Brazil have not won the World Cup since 2002 though and all eyes will once again be on the South American giants to try claim a triumph, using their famous ‘Joga Bonito’ brand.
Argentina will take on the United Arab Emirates in November in their final warmup match before heading to the World Cup, where they play their opening Group C game against Saudi Arabia on Nov. 22. Mexico and Poland are the other teams in the group.