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Lionel Messi hopes that Argentina will reach another World Cup final, but admits he’s focusing on the group stage first.

Argentina Football Association (AFA) president Claudio Tapia has said he would be pleased if Lionel Messi played less for Barcelona in the remainder of the season so he arrives at the World Cup in top condition.

Messi has featured in all 23 of Barca’s La Liga games this campaign, 22 of them starts, also starting five Copa del Rey games and playing in all six of their Champions League matches.

Tapia told TyC Sports: “We hope all the players arrive at the level they are at, which is very high.

“[Sergio] Aguero’s [level] is terrific and Messi is always there, high up. This is important for us, the executives, and the coaching staff to see the level that he [Messi] is at.

“With Messi, we spoke about looking after him, playing less than he has, and if there are games that don’t merit Messi to be present, then for him not to play in order to take care of himself a bit more I think that’s good.”

Lionel Messi is the leading scorer in La Liga with 20 goals.

Argentina captain Messi, the leading scorer in La Liga with 20 goals, scored a hat trick in the 3-1 win over Ecuador that sealed his country’s World Cup place.

And after three straight final defeats for Argentina — two in the Copa America and the other at the 2014 World Cup — Tapia said he was hoping for better luck.

“We are already feeling the adrenaline as the World Cup approaches,” he said. “We hope that we have the World Cup we want.

“We hope we can give the the Argentinian people a lot of joy. They are expectant and already feel that we are champions. But it’s a World Cup and it’s seven finals, and we have to go step by step.”

Tapia added the AFA is considering the possibility of a friendly against Catalonia in Barcelona in early June before their World Cup opener against Iceland on June 16.

“We received an offer last week from a representative of a company to play a friendly against Catalonia in Barcelona’s stadium on June 4, a date where we didn’t have anything planned,” he said.

“Jorge [Sampaoli] thought it would be good for our preparation and it’s also good from a financial standpoint. If we manage to seal it, it would be something important.”

Adriana Garcia is a Valencia-based football writer who covers La Liga for ESPN FC.


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