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Messi ready to step into Maradona's shoes

Written by: Staff
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Berlin, May 18 (UNI) Lionel Messi was not born when Diego Maradona lifted the World Cup title in Mexico but Argentina's hopes of ending a two-decade title drought would rest on the young shoulders of the 18-year-old flat-footed forward.

Since his meteoric rise in the soccer horizon and the splendid last 12 months, the teenager is craving for more and stepping into Maradona's shoes might be a scary thought for others but ''The Flea'' says he is ready for the show.

''Argentina have great players and a great team that's good enough to go far in Germany. Naturally, we're dreaming of winning the Cup, but we're taking things one step at a time,'' said the soft-spoken Argentine who shares Barcelona dressing room with close friend Ronaldinho.

''He's a great mate, someone who's been very good to me and who helped me a lot when I first started training with the Barcelona squad. He was one of those players who made the biggest effort to get to know me, and I'll always be grateful to him for that,'' he said of the mercurial Brazillian.

Messi also admits that arch-rivals Brazil will begin as overwhelming pre-tournament favourites but the Rosario-born player reminded upsets do take place in World Cup.

''They're a cut above the rest, and they are the overwhelming favourites. But anything can happen at the World Cup. We were favourites in 2002 yet didn't make it past the first round. The fact that they're favourites doesn't mean they're going to win it.'' The youngster is also convinced that his illustrious Albiceleste colleague Juan Riquelme will light up the tournament even though the latter missed a decisive penalty for Villarreal in the UEFA Champions League semi-final.

''Roman is an incredible player and is known across the globe.

There's nothing I can say about him that people don't already know.

He's got so much quality, he sees the game well and gets his fair share of goals. He's vital for us.''

UNI

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