Messi: Argentina must turn around failures

If Lionel Messi is to crown his career with World Cup glory, the road to success will start on Friday when Argentina meet Chile in their opening qualifier for the 2014 finals in Brazil.

Argentina entertain the Chileans at the Monumental in Buenos Aires in one of four matches on the opening day of the South American group. The section involves nine countries since hosts Brazil are exempt from qualifying.

South American champions Uruguay, semi-finalists at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, host Bolivia, Venezuela travel to Ecuador at high altitude in Quito and losing Copa America finalists Paraguay visit Peru in Lima.

Argentina's lack of recent success can be traced back to a qualifier for the previous World Cup when Chile, then coached by Argentine Marcelo Bielsa, won 1-0 in Santiago.

Chile's first victory over their neighbours in a competitive match led to the resignation of coach Alfio Basile, the man who delivered Argentina's last major trophy when he won back to back Copa America titles in 1991 and 1993 during a previous stint in charge.

Argentina's defeat sparked a rollercoaster of results under Diego Maradona whose side almost failed to reach the 2010 World Cup.

Maradona's team were also humiliated 4-0 by Germany in a quarter-final in Cape Town and then new coach Sergio Batista failed with his stated intent to deliver the Copa America title on home soil earlier this year.

Argentina are itching for revenge over the Chileans with Messi saying they need to stop the rot of bad results.

"We have to get results once and for all and turn round the failures because when you win everything gets easier," Messi told reporters this week.


The Barcelona scoring machine is still looking for his first goal for Argentina in a competitive match since March 2009, a two and a half year period in which he has only netted in friendlies.

New coach Alejandro Sabella is well aware he needs to build a team that will help captain Messi deliver.

Former skipper Javier Mascherano will be missing through suspension on Friday while in-form striker Sergio Aguero is doubtful with a groin injury.

Chile are also two key men short with Alexis Sanchez, Messi's Barcelona team-mate, recovering from a thigh injury and midfield enforcer Gary "Pitbull" Medel banned.

There was a scare for Argentina in training on Wednesday when Martin Demichelis was knocked out in a clash of heads with Marcos Rojo. But after hospital tests the central defender was able to return to the squad.

Uruguay's strong side are under no illusions that the qualifiers could be tougher than the Copa America they won in July, having advanced to the 2002 and 2010 World Cups through play-offs with teams from other continents.

However, Bolivia are unlikely to inspire too much fear in Uruguay having recorded no wins, five draws and six defeats under coach Gustavo Quinteros since he took charge for the Copa America.

Uruguayan supporters do not appear to see the match at the Centenario as an attractive night out, with football association (AUF) spokesman Matias Faral telling Reuters they had sold only 19,000 of the 54,000 tickets.