Messi, Robben aim to put down underdogs

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Copy of 451689882 Getty Images Lionel Messi of Argentina dribbles the ball during a training session at Estadio Nacional in Brasilia, Brazil. Photo: Ronald Martinez


Rio de Janiero - Lionel Messi's Argentina take on Belgium in the World Cup quarter-finals on Saturday again aiming to prove that they are a not a one man team.

The match in Salvador and Netherlands' quarter final against Costa Rica in Brasilia could see the end of the World Cup's dark horses and underdogs.

Messi's side went out in the quarter finals at the 2006 and 2010 tournaments and the four time world player of the year is desperate to get the only big trophy missing from his resplendent cupboard.

But Argentine coach Alejandro Sabella has faced repeated questions about his reliance on the Barcelona superstar who has scored four of the team's seven goals.

Marc Wilmots, coach of the talented and gritty Belgian team, also insists that his players must beware of everyone around Messi as well.

Belgium's record World Cup goal scorer with five goals in three finals, Wilmots said that “people tend to focus on Messi, and rightly so.

But after watching Argentina's last 16 victory over Switzerland, he added: “The team is not just Lionel Messi. It's a whole. You have to reach a balance.

“At some points they left a few scoring opportunities for Switzerland, so things can change very quickly.”

Wilmots “Red Devils” must succeed where their talented forebears of 1986 failed. In the semi-finals that year, Belgium could not cope with another genius, Diego Maradona, who scored both goals in a 2-0 win.

Individual moments of Messi brilliance have marked nearly all of Argentina's campaign at the World Cup so far. As well as scoring he made Angel di Maria's winner against the Swiss.

But Sabella insisted that a lot of good work by Messi's team-mates is going unnoticed.

“Any team that has a player like Messi will greatly depend on him,” said Sabella.

“But I believe that what he's doing is the work of the entire team. He's the best player in the world, but he's part of a team.”

The Dutch - finalists in 2010 - have to contend with a Costa Rica side whose great strength is their teamwork.

Louis van Gaal says his players will not take for granted a country, no matter how small, that dispensed with Uruguay and Italy, drew with England, and with just 10 men saw off Greece in the last 16.

“No, no, no. I don't think there's any question of underestimating Costa Rica,” said van Gaal, who wants to arrive at Manchester United having delivered the Dutch their first ever World Cup.

“I would say that the players consider this to be the most important stage and they are going for their objective. And the objective is not something we want to underestimate.”

Costa Rica's main concern in the uncharted territory of the quarter-finals is that Arjen Robben does not get away with the diving antics which attracted unwanted publicity last Sunday in the last gasp 2-1 win over Mexico.

Costa Rica coach Jorge Luis Pinto said he was “really worried about Robben diving”. He urged Uzbek referee Ravshan Irmatov not to be afraid to hand out yellow cards if necessary.

“Maybe he would have to leave the field because he gets two yellow cards for diving. That could happen,” said Pinto. - Sapa-AFP

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