Barcelona star Lionel Messi believes the present Argentina squad will have to disappear from the national team should they fail to impress at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia next year.
Messi single-handedly ensured Argentina's qualification with a hat-trick on the final matchday of the South America qualifiers, leading the star-studded but fumbling side to a 3-0 win over Ecuador, away from home.
His heroics ensured Jorge Sampaoli men booked themselves a spot in the Final draw held in Moscow last Friday, where the Albiceleste were drawn in group D against Nigeria, Iceland
With the World Cup fast approaching, Messi in an interview with TyC Sports commented on the tournament itself and what the fans should expect from him and the rest of the squad members in terms of performances and target. He also opened up on what they should expect in the event of a poor showing at the football showpiece.
“If Argentina don’t
do well in this World Cup, we will all have to disappear from the national team. We went through a tough spell. But it’s true that we have to improve if we aspire to be world champions.
"I think that we have time to improve in these games and before the World Cup. when we’ll have a month to put everything in order before the start. As we are today, we are not far from that although there are better teams than us such as Brazil, Germany, France and Spain.
“We’ve had good games or at least good moments with SAMPAOLI. But we haven’t had a lot of games with him either. There was also the added pressure and the need to win. It’s not easy to play in those moments, with a lot of new guys, a lot of guys who weren’t used to going through these moments with the National Team. And that makes you play differently.” said Messi
On the objective of the national team ahead of the World Cup, Messi added: “We are searching for (everyone’s happiness). This group has gone throught
some difficult moments. It hurts a lot to have gone to three finals and be so criticised. We are the first ones to want to win with the national team. Playing in Argentina is an added pressure for this group that is criticized so much. It’s much more difficult for us to play at home than on the road.
“In the middle of all that has happened, we have suffered criticism outside of what is normal, they were criticising everything. Not only were they criticising what happened on the pitch but off it as well. That is why there is bitterness when we don’t achieve the results that we are looking for. Because we know what awaits us when that happens.
“They (the detractors) are waiting for all of us to leave,
because it seems like we have been on the national team too long and it gets tiring to see the same players. Everything happens because of that. People want to see results. We feel like that and we carry that (burden). That’s not something that just happened. We’ve thought about that since the last Copa America, since the World Cup Qualifiers.”
Messi and his troops will kickoff their campaign in Russia against 2016 Euros surprise package Iceland on June 16, before taking on Croatia in their second game, six days later. Their final Group D fixture will be against their World Cup familiar foes Nigeria on June 26, 2017 at the St Petersburg Arena.