(AP) — Lionel Messi has won it all with Barcelona in a decorated career. Winning a title with Argentina remains one of his biggest ambitions.
The 33-year-old Messi might have one of his final chances at the Copa America.
Argentina’s campaign will begin on Monday against Chile at the Nilton Santos stadium in Rio de Janeiro. Copa America opened Sunday in emergency mode in Brazil, where the tournament was shifted after Colombia and Argentina were dropped as co-hosts.
“I am always available to my national team. My biggest dream is to win a title with this shirt,” Messi told a news conference in Rio. “I was very close many times. It didn’t happen, but I will keep trying. I will always fight for this dream.”
Messi said most of the group had played together for a while and “the way this Argentina plays is very clear.”
“That’s why it is is time that we win this Copa,” he said. “We know it will be a special one, different because of all that the world is going through.”
The Argentina captain also said he approves Rodrigo de Paul as a teammate who gives him protection and also helps in creating attack.
“Little by little we got to know each other and I feel well playing with him,” Messi said.
In his 15 years playing for Argentina, Messi lost the 2014 World Cup final, plus two editions of Copa America in 2015 and 2016. Argentina hasn’t won any major tournament since the 1993 South American championship.
That adds significance to every major event.
There’s more risk than usual with this edition of the Copa America. More than 485,000 people died in Brazil because of the virus, and 11 players have tested positive upon arrival for the tournament — eight from Venezuela and three from Bolivia.
“It is a risk for all of us,” Messi said. “We are worried, we try to take care, do all that (we’re) told.
“We will play other teams, there’s also the risk of contagion. We will do everything we can for that not to happen, but many times it doesn’t depend on us.”
Argentina is in group A with Chile, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay. The four best teams in each group advance to the knockout stage. The final will be on July 10 at the historic Maracanã stadium in Rio.