Argentina and superstar Leonel Messi arrived in Qatar for the World Cup early on Thursday, just hours after a 5-0 warm-up victory, while the defending champions France also touched down in Doha.
Messi played the full 90 minutes ad got on the score sheet as Argentina beat the United Arab Emirates (UAE) 5-0 in their final World Cup warm-up match.
Messi scored Argentina’s fourth goal just before halftime as the pre-tournament favourites stretched their unbeaten run to 36 games. Messi also set up Manchester City’s Julian Alvarez to open the scoring in the 17th minute and has now scored 10 goals in his past four international matches.
Messi has many trophies in his cabinet but the tournament in Qatar is likely to be his final chance to equal the achievement of fellow Argentina great Diego Maradona in leading his country to World Cup Glory.
One of the favourites going into this year’s World Cup, the South Americans will begin their campaign on Tuesday against Saudi Arabia in Group C, which also includes Mexico and Poland.
The 1978 and 1986 World Cup winners extended their unbeaten run to 36 matches as Messi scored his 91st international goal.
Messi was cautious about his teams’ chances of coming out as World Cup champions in Qatar despite being among the favourites.
“We have a very nice group that is very eager, but we think about going little by little. We know that World Cup groups are not easy,” the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner said in an interview with CONMEBOL, the South American football federation.
Meanwhile, the defending champions France arrived in Doha on Wednesday, seeking to become the first team to retain the World Cup since Brazil in 1962.
Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema, who has missed a series of games for Real Madrid because of injury, is set to make his first appearance in the World Cup since 2014.
Source: Arab News, The Guardian, Eyewitness News, image from Twitter: @PSG_English