Messi lists his World Cup favourites

London, May 28 (IANS) Argentina’s star player Lionel Messi rates England, Spain and Brazil as three favourites for this summer’s World Cup.

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

‘They (all) had a strong, easy qualifying and are very tough,’ Messi was quoted as saying in The Guardian Friday.

‘But you have to show up in the World Cup, and in the World Cup anything can happen.’

Messi said he was hopeful that Argentina would also be in contention and defended his performances for the national side.

He has been accused of not performing at the same level for Argentina that he regularly does for Barcelona.

‘People have an opinion and I respect it,’ said Messi. ‘I’m the first person who wants to do well with my national team and perform like I do with Barcelona. I know that this is a really good opportunity for me and I’m going to try to do it.

‘(But) they are different systems and different styles and everything, no? At Barcelona, 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. And well, I’ve had the luck to be able to score more goals.’

Asked about his relationship with the Argentina manager Diego Maradona, Messi added: ‘At first, it was strange to have him as our coach. 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.

‘The truth is that Maradona has always been very nice to me. Even before he was our coach and I took my first steps as a professional. Now that I have him as a manager, he’s even closer and gives me a lot more confidence than he did before.’