x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Messi's form out of this world

Brazil's attacking troika of Alexandre Pato, Neymar and Ganso yesterday agreed that Argentina's Lionel Messi's current form puts him on "another planet".

Brazil's attacking troika of Alexandre Pato, Neymar and Ganso yesterday agreed that Argentina's Lionel Messi's current form puts him on "another planet".

Messi failed to fire host nation Argentina to victory against Bolivia in their opening match of Group A on Friday, with the visitors holding La Albiceleste to a 1-1 draw in Group A. Sergio Aguero scored for Argentina.

However, the Brazil trio applauded Messi, the Barcelona forward who last season helped his club to both Primera Liga and Champions League ascendancy, scoring 53 goals in an outstanding season. Despite their collective abilities, they said they feel inferior to the Camp Nou superstar.

"Without doubt he [is on] another planet, because he does things others can not," Ganso told ESPN Brazil ahead of their first match in Group B, against Venezuela today.

Pato, who plies his trade in Italy with AC Milan, echoed his international teammate's sentiments despite believing in his own side's qualities.

"I arrived in Milan when I was 18. But my time in Italian football helped me to mature," said Pato. "Today I am a complete player, the No 9 for Brazil. [However,] when Messi plays [he] is the best.

"With Ganso, Neymar and Robinho [we] will have a great championship. I have a very good relationship with my peers both on and off the pitch. This tournament is very important to me."

The comments come as Neymar conceded that he wanted to work hard at Santos to be as good as Messi, a player he believes cannot be outshone in world football.

The 19-year-old striker, who is being courted by several top European clubs including Messi's club Barca and rivals Real Madrid, also stated his admiration for the national coach Mano Menezes and said he is hoping for a successful tournament.

"[He] is a great coach. I learn a lot from him. Hopefully, this will be my Copa America," Neymar said.

Menezes said he is not expecting an easy game when his Brazil side begin their Copa America title defence against Venezuela at the Estadio Ciudad de La Plata in Buenos Aires.

"We don't have many 'dead chickens' in football," Menezes said at his pre-match press conference of Cesar Farias's side. "Venezuela certainly isn't one of them because they are working to change their situation.

"They are trying to play in the same pattern of today's football, opting to mark in the attacking half."

Menezes also promised that Brazil, the five-time world champions, will be playing attacking football at the tournament.

"Playing with three forwards I think is a worldwide tendency. If anyone has the condition to follow that tendency and make it even better it's Brazil and Argentina," he said.

He went on to compare the styles of Brazil and Argentina, the favourites to win the tournament, highlighting some key variations between the two South American rivals.

"Between Brazil and Argentina, there is a little difference, as Argentina is based on Barcelona's model because they have the same reference, in Lionel Messi," he said.

"Our formation has a little more creativity in the middle because Ganso is a typical playmaker and has the quality to do that better than the players who form other team's midfields."

Lucio, the Brazil centre-back and captain, is in line to win his 100th cap today, putting him fourth in the all-time list behind Cafu, Roberto Carlos and Claudio Taffarel.

Group B's other match played today sees Paraguay face Ecuador.

* Agencies

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