Messi ‘one step ahead of all of us’

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Brasilia: Argentina midfielder Rodrigo De Paul has hailed Lionel Messi’s genius as the Albiceleste seek their first major trophy in almost three decades at the Copa America in Brazil.

Messi has been the tournament’s outstanding player, scoring four goals and providing four assists in Argentina’s march to the semifinals. Victory against Colombia at Brasilia’s Mane Garrincha stadium would set up a tantalising final against hosts Brazil at the Maracana Stadium on July 10, reports Xinhua.

“(He is) one step ahead of all of us,” De Paul told a virtual news conference on Monday. “For the first goal against Ecuador (in July 3 quarterfinal], for example, he saw me alone and luckily, it helped us to win.”

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Argentina’s last major tournament triumph came at the 1993 Copa America in Ecuador, where Gabriel Batistuta fired them to a 2-1 win over Mexico in the final.

Argentina have come agonisingly close to ending the drought in the past decade, finishing runners up at the 2014 World Cup and the 2015 and 2016 editions of the Copa America.

“We are motivated and we know how difficult the game against Colombia is going to be, but we feel prepared and very excited to face it,” said De Paul.

“This is a long road in which we must face great teams, but we are willing to fight until the last day to reach the final. We want nothing more than to bring joy to all Argentines,” the Udinese player added.