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Page last updated at 11:41 GMT, Friday, 28 May 2010 12:41 UK

Lionel Messi tips England for success at World Cup

Lionel Messi

World Cup guide - Argentina

Argentina forward Lionel Messi believes England are among the leading contenders to win the World Cup in South Africa this summer.

Spain and Brazil are the most fancied sides to lift the trophy but the Barcelona star believes England should be considered as one of the favourites.

"I think that right now, the strongest sides going into the World Cup are Spain, England and Brazil," he said.

"They had a strong, easy qualifying campaign and are very tough."

England manager Fabio Capello has already singled out Diego Maradona's Argentina as the team he fears most heading into the tournament, claiming they have the most talented players.

WORLD CUP PHOTO ALBUM

As the Fifa World Player of the Year, Messi is certainly one of those and arguably the most gifted in his squad but the little forward remains guarded about his side's chances at the tournament.

"Hopefully, it will be my World Cup, Argentina's World Cup and that we hit the ground running and play up to people's expectations and win," he told CNN International.

Messi has had another stellar season with Barcelona, inspiring his club side to another Primera Division title with a series of majestic individual performances.

There is still a feeling in Argentina, however, that he does not reproduce that form at international level.

"People have an opinion and I respect it," he added. "I'm the first person who wants to do well with my national team and perform like I do with Barcelona.

Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi
Messi says the Argentina players are starting to get used to coach Maradona

"I know that this is a really good opportunity for me and I'm going to try to do it.

"They are different systems and different styles. At Barcelona, [Josep] Guardiola decided to use me more in the middle and that's when I had more touches on the ball and played more around the front of the area.

"I've had the luck to be able to score more goals."

Maradona has largely struggled in his 18-month spell in charge of the national side, calling up over 100 players and seeing his team only just secure qualification to the World Cup finals.

But Messi feels his squad are starting to adapt to Maradona's style as a coach, despite a difficult start to his reign.

"At first, it was strange to have him as our coach," stated Messi. "The truth is he was a little imposing.

"But afterwards, we started getting used to him and he's been our coach for a while, so now it's normal.

"Also, he's really close to the players, he's one of the guys, so there's no problem. Maradona has always been very nice to me."

Argentina are in Group B in South Africa, alongside Nigeria, South Korea and Greece. They open their campaign against the African side in Johannesburg on June 12.

Wayne Rooney

World Cup guide - England



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see also
Guide to the teams at South Africa 2010
05 Dec 09 |  World Cup 2010
Coloccini out of Argentina squad
19 May 10 |  World Cup 2010
Maradona banned for lewd outburst
15 Nov 09 |  Internationals
Win seals Argentina qualification
15 Oct 09 |  World Cup 2010
Maradona under pressure
09 Oct 09 |  Internationals
Maradona denies threat to resign
09 Oct 09 |  Internationals


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