Argentina may have struggled through the group stage, but Diego Maradona feels Russia 2018 can still be Lionel Messi’s World Cup.
Argentina battled into the last 16 in Russia, needing a dramatic 2-1 win over Nigeria to clinch second spot in Group D with their first victory of the tournament.
Under pressure to win a first senior trophy with Argentina, Messi opened his account at Russia 2018 with a classy strike in that success.
Maradona, an Argentina great who won the 1986 World Cup, feels this year could still be Messi’s, as his nation prepare to face France in the last 16 on Saturday.
‘Yes, of course, it can be,’ he told Marca when asked if it could still be Messi’s tournament.
‘This is just beginning, it’s in diapers. Now is when we start playing.’
Maradona added: ‘No-one can retreat any more. The teams have to attack. If not, at most you go to penalties.’
The 57-year-old has taken centre stage in Russia, where he suffered a health scare during Argentina’s win against Nigeria.
The 91-time international said he would love to see Argentina meet Spain, where he played club football for Barcelona and Sevilla, in the World Cup final.
‘I wish it were given, and it can be given the route they both go,’ Maradona said. ‘And hopefully Argentina arrive at that, but there is still a long way to go.
‘I have a lot of respect for France and Spain will not have an easy time against Russia either.
‘Now is when all the players start their engines. Their dream is to win a World Cup and now they must prove it.’
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