May 21, 2013
Messi poses headache for South American rivals
Stopping Lionel Messi is the primary concern of South American teams facing Argentina in the World Cup qualifiers. This week it is Uruguay's turn.
Argentina defend their lead in the South American group at home to Uruguay in Mendoza on Friday (0100 GMT Saturday). After seven matches they have 14 points, one more than Colombia and Ecuador and two ahead of Uruguay and Chile.
They will be looking to make amends for a poor performance in their last match, a 1-1 draw with Peru in Lima where Messi, who had scored 10 goals in his previous six internationals, had one of his quietest games for his country.
South American champions Uruguay want a second successive upset over their neighbours after their Copa America quarter-final victory on penalties last year.
Uruguay's coach Oscar Washington Tabarez does not believe in man-marking Messi, but rather in preventing Argentina from functioning in support of the Barcelona ace.
"Messi is a great player, among the best seen in the history of football...so I'm not going to say too much about that because it would be redundant," Tabarez told reporters in Montevideo on Tuesday.
"But Messi has a team around him trying to ensure be shows all his potential.
"So we have to work on and counter everything Argentina does for the ball to get to Messi and after Messi takes it try to mark him."
The Uruguayans, World Cup semi-finalists in 2010, need to recover from a poor September when they lost 4-0 away to Colombia and only managed a 1-1 draw at home to Ecuador.
Captain Diego Lugano believes this double away fixture will be the hardest trip for Uruguay, who play Bolivia at high altitude in La Paz next week, in the 16-match qualifying series.
"These are key (qualifying) points, much more so after the last double-header when we didn't do well," Lugano said.