World Cup 2022: Argentina against Australia: Lionel Messi is ready for match number 1000

Argentina forward Lionel Messi will make his 1,000th career appearance in Saturday’s World Cup round of 16 clash with Australia.

He will win his 169th cap on top of 778 caps for Barcelona and 53 caps for current Paris St-Germain.

If they lose, it could be the last time the 35-year-old plays in a World Cup.

“We have to be aware of everything. It won’t come down to just one person to stop him,” Australia defender Harry Souttar said.

Stoke City’s Souttar, who was born in Aberdeen and used to be a Scotland youth international, has been one of the stars of the Socceroos’ surprise run to the knockout rounds.

“Messi has been one of the two outstanding players in the world [along with Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo]and it will be a long time before we see their likes again.

“But tomorrow night, for 90 minutes, he’s just one of the players we have to face.”

Messi has scored twice in this World Cup before seeing a penalty saved against Poland.

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni – whose side are second favorites behind Brazil to win the World Cup – has complained about his team’s reduced preparation time for this match.

Australia beat Denmark on Wednesday to qualify, with Argentina defeating Poland four hours later to book their place.

“Australia, who finished second in the group, played at 6pm and we got there first but played at 10pm. We went to bed at 4am and that has an impact when you have a game in 48 hours,” said Scaloni, who took over after the 2018 World Cup.

“We will break our backs on this pitch to compete, we know how difficult this World Cup is, this is football.”

Coach Graham Arnold has guided Australia into the last 16 of the World Cup for just the second time

Australia boss Graham Arnold is preparing his country for only their second ever World Cup qualifier. They lost 1-0 to Italy in the round of 16 in 2006.

“No disrespect to Argentina but it’s 11 against 11 and it’s 10 blue shirts against 10 yellow shirts and it’s a game,” he said.

“It’s a war and we have to fight it and make sure the boys are in good physical shape, good mental shape, they have good energy and we go out there and give it our all with guns blazing.”

MAKE A NEW

Argentina’s Angel di Maria was taken off as a precaution against Poland due to a thigh problem, so he could be on the bench.

Coach Lionel Scaloni has to decide between Lautaro Martinez and Julian Alvarez in attack.

Australia coach Graham Arnold can stick with the same side that beat Denmark.

Full-back Nathaniel Atkinson is pushing for a recall from the ankle he picked up against France.

Argentina's Lionel Messi

MATCH FACTS

  • Australia’s only win in seven matches against Argentina was in their first meeting in 1988. Current Socceroos boss Arnold played in that match.
  • Argentina have reached the knockout stage of the World Cup for the ninth time in the last 10 World Cups.
  • Messi has had 23 efforts without scoring in the World Cup knockout phase for Argentina.
  • Australia have won back-to-back matches and kept a clean sheet for the first time in the World Cup. Their previous clean sheet before their two in this tournament was back in 1974.

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