With the FIFA World Cup 2018 about to start in two weeks, the 2014 World Cup finalists Argentina, who thrashed Haiti 4-0 in the warm-up earlier this week, are touted to be one of the favourites. Argentina are placed in Group D along with Croatia and the clash between the two teams will pit Barcelona teammates Lionel Messi and Ivan Rakitic against each other. Speaking to the Croatian newspaper Vecernji list, Rakitic praised his Argentine rival and said he makes his country the favourites in the World Cup.
“As with all other team-mates that went to World Cup, I wished him (Lionel Messi) all the luck. Of course, when you have the best player in the world, you are favourites, although he says they are not,” Rakitic was quoted as saying by the newspaper.
Messi led Barcelona to La Liga and Copa del Rey titles earlier this year. But he has been unable to win an international trophy for Argentina, losing to Germany in the 2014 World Cup final, and then twice to Chile in Copa America final in 2015 and 2016. Talking about Messi’s desire to lift the World Cup trophy, Rakitic said, “He’d give some titles with Barcelona for that one with Argentina. ”
Further praising the star forward, Rakitic said that Messi would have surpassed Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in number of Grand Slams wins if he played tennis. “If Messi had played tennis, he’d have won 50 Grand Slams.”
But with the two countries to compete in the World Cup in the group stage in Russia, Rakitic said that Croatia will pose a challenge for the South American team. “But you don’t play football by yourself, it is not an individual sport,” he said.
FIFA World Cup 2018 will begin from June 14, 2018, in Russia and will see 32 teams competing against each other.