Lionel Messi admits to ‘anxiety and nerves’ ahead of World Cup opener

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Lionel Messi has admitted the Argentina players are “anxious” and “nervous” ahead of their World Cup opener against Saudi Arabia on Tuesday morning. The Paris Saint-Germain forward played in the 2014 World Cup final when his country were beaten 1-0 by Germany and is set to appear at his last World Cup in Qatar.

“Anxiety and nerves exist,” the 35-year-old said. “For most players in our team it’s their first World Cup. Tomorrow we’ll have a tough game.”

Messi has scored 91 goals in 165 games for his country and has appeared at the last four World Cups. The veteran only found the back of the net a total of six times in those tournaments, however, and has never been able to get his hands on the trophy.

But Argentina are among the favourites to win the tournament this year after lifting the Copa America trophy last year and sailing through their World Cup qualifying group without losing a single game.

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And ahead of the clash with Saudi Arabia, Messi confirmed he is raring to go. “I’m feeling very well,” the ex-Barcelona ace continued. “I’m very well physically, good condition. I think I come here in really good form both personally and physically. I have no issues whatsoever. I heard there were rumours about having to miss part of the training, or training apart from the team because of a blow. No, it was just precautions – nothing strange or out of the ordinary.”

Messi, who left Barcelona last summer after 21 years at the club, was asked if he had prepared for the Qatar World Cup in a different way to the others after previously failing to lift the trophy. But he replied: “No. It’s a different period within the season – we haven’t played that many games yet and I feel well. I just took care of myself.

“I am aware that this is a very special moment. It is most likely my last World Cup – the last opportunity to make my dream, our dream, a reality. But other than that, nothing special.”

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And the player added: “[I feel] maybe a bit more mature. I think I’m really enjoying much more now. Before maybe I didn’t think about that, I just wanted to play. But now I’m trying to enjoy it.

“I’m always excited, I always want more and I always want to try again to win this competition. We don’t have to think about the past. We have to try again and hopefully we can do it.”

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