Abu Dhabi: Argentina face the UAE in a friendly match on Wednesday evening at the Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi before they kick off their World Cup campaign in Qatar against Saudi Arabia. That Group C clash will take place on November 22 and Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni has one final game to fine-tune his tactics not to mention nail down his starting eleven for the showpiece, which is taking place in the Middle East for the first time.
At a press conference at the Al Nahyan Stadium, ahead of the clash against the UAE, Scaloni said: “We are looking forward to playing in Abu Dhabi against the UAE. We are expecting it to be a difficult match, it will not be easy. The UAE is a strong team and has achieved a lot of great results in the past. Also we must remember the team was very close to qualifying for the World Cup in Qatar. They came very close but they were unfortunate against a good Australia team. So we are expecting a tough match tomorrow and that is exactly what we need before we begin the tournament.”
One match at a time
Argentina — the current South American champions and one of the favourites to win the tournament — have been training in Abu Dhabi ahead of the UAE friendly before the short trip to Qatar next week. The team is on an incredible 35-match unbeaten run and Scaloni is hoping the run will continue, starting Wednesday night. “We have been on a very good run of results and the team is playing well. But it is important to keep this run going and the way to achieve that is by playing as a unit. We cannot rely on any individuals. This is a team game and if we continue to play like a team we can achieve good results. But also we cannot get too fixated by this unbeaten run. Yes, it is great to go this many games without losing. But we have to focus on one match at a time. And so our attention now is just on the UAE game. After this we can we can build up our preparations for he Saudi Arabia match.”
Captain Lionel Messi has already stated that this will be his last World Cup. But, the 35-year-old Paris Saint-Germain star came back from international retirement in 2016 and Scaloni will try his best to talk the superstar out of hanging up his boots and play in the next World Cup in the USA. He will be 39 but with modern day footballers taking far better care of their health and fitness, he could well still be involved with the national team set up four years from now.
Messi fully fit
“After playing in a World Cup, everyone makes assessments. I’m not in the heads of the players to know what they’re thinking,” continued Scaloni. “In any case, you have to enjoy it. You don’t have to think about the future, enjoy their spectacular present. It’s the rule of life and at some point it will happen. It’s useless to think about what will happen after the World Cup.”
Messi has been training for the last two days with the rest of the squad ahead of the highly anticipated UAE clash and the Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium will be at capacity with thousands of fans desperate for a glimpse of the icon.
He sat out last weekend’s encounter against Auxerre due to an injury, however, Scaloni has confirmed it should not stop him from competing in the World Cup. “Messi was rested at the weekend as a precaution and did not play for PSG. But we expect him to be available for tomorrow’s UAE match and then, of course, for the World Cup.”
Argentina are aiming for a third global crown and after the Saudi Arabia match they will face Mexico on November 26. Their final group match is on November 30 against Poland.