DOHA, Qatar — Lionel Messi has dismissed “rumors” about his fitness and said he is ready to lead Argentina at the World Cup in Qatar.
There have been suggestions that Messi has been missing parts of training sessions because of an ankle injury, but the Paris Saint-Germain forward said he will play against Saudi Arabia at the Lusail Stadium on Tuesday.
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“I’m feeling well,” Messi told a news conference on Monday. “I am very well physically and I feel in good condition. I think I come here in really good shape, both personally and physically.
“There are no issues whatsoever. I heard there were rumors of having to miss part of training or be away from the team because of a blow but it’s nothing out of the ordinary.”
Messi has arrived in Qatar to take part in his fifth World Cup and, having turned 35 in June, reiterated that it will be the last time he features at the tournament.
He will be 39 when the next World Cup is played in the United States, Canada and Mexico in 2026 and he said Qatar offers the last chance to lift the trophy.
“I’m aware it’s a very special moment,” he added. “It’s most likely my last World Cup and the last opportunity to make my dream a reality. I’m really happy and really excited and I want to try to enjoy this World Cup.
“I think age as well makes you see things differently. Maybe now I give more importance to small details because before I didn’t do it. I’ll try now to focus more on the details and today enjoying it is more important.”
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Argentina began their World Cup campaign looking to win the tournament for the first time since 1986.
They are second favorites behind Brazil, but Messi believes the pressure is off the team after lifting the Copa America in 2021 — although he said similarities between this squad and the one which reached the final in 2014.
“I’m not sure we feel better [than before other World Cups] but we just won a competition and that is very reassuring,” he added.
“It helps you work in a different way and you don’t feel as anxious. You don’t put as much pressure on yourself so we focus on enjoying ourselves.
“The squad reminds me of 2014, very united and clear about what we have to do on the pitch and the way we have to play.
“It’s great to be here in good form because it gives you so much confidence.”