France’s best chance against Argentina in the World Cup round of 16 might be that Lionel Messi does not benefit from the same support with the national team as he does at Barcelona, Samuel Umtiti said on Thursday.
Umtiti has been Messi’s teammate for two years and he will cross the forward’s path when Les Bleus take on Argentina in a second round tie on Saturday.
The dender, who is expected to start at the Kazan Arena after being rested in France’s last group game against Denmark, said: “I see him everyday. It is very hard to stop him. He’s got outstanding qualities. We will try to stop him but he’s not the only one in this Argentina team, they have other strikers.”
But while Messi can rely on a reliable Luis Suarez at Barca, he is a bit more on his own with Argentina, with Gonzalo Higuain having notably not scored in his last eight outings with the national team.
He also has to deal with the weight of a whole nation expecting him to win the World Cup in what is likely to be his last shot at the biggest trophy in football.
“He [Messi] is different with Argentina than with Barcelona,” said Umtiti. “He does not have the same players with him and their way of playing is different but he has saved them on several occasions. The Argentineans are tough on him, but he cannot do everything on his own.”