DOHA, Qatar – Lionel Messi is emotionally and physically ready to face Mexico in Argentina’s key World Cup Group C match on Saturday, according to manager Lionel Scaloni.
Argentina fell to a shock 2-1 defeat against Saudi Arabia on Tuesday and need a win against Mexico to keep their World Cup campaign on track. Scaloni said Messi, 35, trained with the rest of the team on Thursday and is ready for the challenge on Saturday.
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“He feels good, but more than ever we need everyone,” Scaloni said. “We have no questions [Messi’s] physical level, and emotionally he feels good, so no problems there.”
He added: “Leo is doing well, like our other teammates. We know we have an important game tomorrow and most young players know everything will be left on the pitch. Everything depends on us – that’s why we have to give everything on the field.”
Scaloni said he will not tear up the Argentina plan after the shock defeat. “You have to get up after a blow like that, bounce back and think about the game ahead – that’s all you can do,” he said. “For a long time everything was perfect for us – all joy – but in difficult moments we need everyone’s support.
“This group is ready to get up and bounce back, we have no question about that in terms of how we play the game. With all the responsibility – we know there’s a whole country behind us – but everyone on the pitch will break their backs our until the last second we are on the pitch so we can turn the opening game.”
Striker Lautaro Martinez said the opening defeat was a “hard blow” but the team is ready to bounce back. “Tomorrow’s game will be like a final as we need to win,” Martinez said.
“It will be an important game for our future, not only in terms of the pecking order but also in terms of what we are going to be able to do on the pitch. We have proved that we have the players and the quality. We are keen and ready and eager to stand up to the next opponent.”
Martinez and Scaloni spoke to the press on the second anniversary of Diego Maradona’s death, with Argentina focused on delivering a performance befitting the 1986 World Cup winner.
“It’s a very sad day for everybody, really,” Scaloni said. “Tomorrow we hope to bring some joy to Maradona if he is watching us from heaven.
“That’s the most important thing for us. Every time we’re reminded of him, it’s unbelievable that he’s not here with us, so it’s a sad day for us. Hopefully tomorrow will be a happy day for all of us.”