At the end of the training session at the Minerva Football Academy in Daun village in Mohali, 13-year-old trainees Yengkhom Wangamba Singh and Thamangjam Roshan Singh are discussing Argentina captain Lionel Messi’s five goals in the ongoing World Cup in Qatar. With Messi’s Argentina to face defending champions France in the World Cup final at Lusail Stadium in Qatar on Sunday evening, Messi fever is on a high among the young football trainees in tricity and the budding footballers are excited to see a memorable match.
“Messi goal marta hai toh acha lagta hai (When Messi scores, it feels good). He has announced that it will be his last World Cup match on Sunday and we hope that he wins the World Cup for Argentina this time. My favourite moment of Messi in this World Cup is him getting past Croatian defender Josko Gvardiol and assisting Julian Alvarez for the goal in the semi-final. We will be watching the final at the auditorium at the academy and will be cheering for Messi and his team to win the title,” says Yengkhom Wangamba Singh, who belongs to village Kakching Makha Leikai in Manipur.
With Messi set to play in a record 26th World Cup match on Sunday, the 35-year-old Argentina captain will also be eying the golden boot trophy in this World Cup. The Argentine is tied on five goals with France striker Kylan Mbappe in this World Cup and with a total of 11 goals and eight goal assists in World Cup history so far, Messi can surpass Miroslav Klose, Ronaldo Nazario and Gerd Muller in terms of most goal involvements in World Cup history. “The way Lionel Messi has executed the penalties in Qatar apart from producing some remarkable assists for his team-mates has been a treat to watch for us. The Argentina team had recovered well after the initial loss against Saudi Arabia and players like Julian Alvarez have stepped up too. At my home back in Manipur, all my relatives and friends are supporting Argentina and we hope to see the team win the title on Sunday,” says 13-year-old Thamangjam Roshan Singh, who belongs to Imphal West.
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At the Sector 46 Sports Complex, football trainees are also busy in discussing the team strategies for the World Cup Final. With defending champions France aiming to become the first team since Brazil in 1962 to win consecutive titles, trainee Tegbir Singh Mann expects Messi’s team to avenge the team’s round of 16 loss against France in the 2018 World Cup. “Messi has matched the all-time record of goals and assists in the World Cup and he will increase the tally in the final against France in the final on Sunday. Argentina has been playing according to the opponent and they showed that by playing five midfielders against Netherlands in the quarters. France has a good attack but Messi’s brilliance coupled with the team’s resilience will see them win the title. We will watch the match at our hostel in Sector 42 Sports Complex cheering for Argentina,” says Tegbir Singh Mann.
Youngster Anubhav Pal, who wore a Lionel Messi mask during the World Cup themed match organized by Bhaichung Bhutia Football Schools Academy in Chandigarh this week also hopes to repeat the same watching the final. “While I missed some matches due to school in the morning, I made sure to watch the highlights and full match the following day.
Messi likes to assist his team-mates to score and he is playing as the leader of the team in this World Cup.
Argentina can play defensively initially to counter France’s fine strikers like Kylan Mbappe and then go for counter attacks when they become tired,” says Pal, a student of St Soldier’s School, Panchkula.