Interview

‘If you love football, you love to watch Messi’

It took a Lionel Messi masterclass to secure Argentina’s place at next summer’s World Cup - and Arsène Wenger is pleased that the Barcelona forward will be in Russia next summer.

The two-time champions only qualified thanks to a 3-1 win against Ecuador in Quito last month, with Messi scoring a hat-trick after Romario Ibarra’s first-minute goal had put Argentina on the brink of elimination.

“I’m personally very happy [to see Messi go to the World Cup],” Wenger told Arsenal Player. “If you love football, you love to watch Messi. If you love football, you love Argentina as well. 

“They always have top-class offensive players and they are spoilt for talent. Overall, I would say that I would have been sad if Argentina had not gone to the World Cup.

“We’re a bit spoiled in Europe because we have 13 positions to go to the World Cup. We play against smaller teams in little groups, so the danger is not too big, other than Holland’s group, which was quite strong. You had France in there and Sweden in there too so it was quite tough, but most of the qualifying groups are not very difficult. 

“In South America, you have 10 teams and only four go straight through. Team five has to go through the play-offs, so it looks much more difficult to me. 

“You never beat a South American team easily either. It’s tough for everybody everywhere to go to Bolivia, Colombia, Paraguay, Brazil or Chile. 

“You have an array of difficult games. That’s certainly the most difficult place to qualify.”

Alexis’ Chile missed out this time, the Copa America holders finishing sixth in qualifying.

Chile missed out on qualification for next summer's World Cup in Russia

“They are brilliant going forward,” Wenger added. “They have Arturo Vidal and Alexis who are the two leaders in the group. 

“Watching them, they’ve suffered a little bit recently from conceding too many goals. I watched their final qualifier because I wanted to know what happened to them, and also to see how Alexis was treated in the game and how he finished the game. 

“I must say that it was a very, very tough, competitive game with an unbelievable number of fouls in the game. It was a really tough game and that shows you that, in Brazil, even though they have qualified, there is no present in there.”

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