Argentina build confidence through togetherness

PRETORIA - Young ace Lionel Messi and old head Juan Sebastian Veron, who share a room at Argentina's World Cup base, are players their country hopes will inspire the team to their third crown.

Messi, in his first contact with media in South Africa on Thursday five days after their arrival, said that in terms of individual talent Diego Maradona's squad were the strongest at the finals starting on June 11.

"If we look at it player by player, it's hard (to find) another national team better than ours," Messi told reporters after a practice at the University of Pretoria where Argentina are bunkered.

Veron said: "The team is in the making... We're working on tactical questions... and with the passing of the days the coach will go looking for options."

The shaven-headed senior citizen of the squad, who has taken Messi under his wing, said the only thing that threatened the peace at the camp was the 22-year-old's snoring.

"He's a good room mate, a small problem is that he snores a lot, but that can be resolved with a pillow," said a grinning Veron, at his third World Cup since 1998.

Veron, 35, said he hoped Messi would maintain the brilliant club form that made him the world's top player.

"Let's hope he is in form because he's an important component of the national team. He's looking good generally."


Messi said Argentina's period of concentration at their base in South Africa's capital was essential to strengthen the team after a disappointing qualifying campaign.

"I'm calm, keen for the Word Cup to start, but this national team doesn't just have me but a great group of players," he said.

However Messi, who saw little action in his first World Cup in Germany in 2006, is the man Argentina fans are looking to for inspiration as they seek the country's third title.

"I've arrived at the World Cup in great form, I'm relaxed and I have the support of my team mates," he said.

"We were lacking this, to be together, have time to get to know each other. Now we have that, we're making the most of it and it's been good for all of us."

What reporters were allowed to see of the practice in the last quarter of an hour was an informal game between the majority of the squad on a reduced pitch with the goals moved to the edge of the penalty areas.

Inter Milan's top scorer Diego Milito twisted his right ankle during this final spell in the practice and came off for treatment but a team spokesman said later it was not a serious injury.

Argentina are drawn in Group B with Nigeria, South Korea and Greece.

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