England among the favourites in South Africa, says Messi

By Michael Owen
lionel messi

Messi scored 47 goals for Barcelona in all competitions in 2009-10

Lionel Messi believes England are one of the strongest teams in the World Cup and is tipping Fabio Capello’s side to do well in South Africa.

The Barcelona forward suggested England are among the favourites to win the competition alongside Spain and Brazil.

“I think that right now, the strongest sides going into the World Cup are Spain, England and Brazil,” he told CNN International.

“They had a strong, easy qualifying campaign and are very tough.”

Despite a poor qualifying campaign Messi believes that if Argentina make a good start to the competition then they have a good chance of doing well.

“Hopefully, it will be my World Cup, Argentina’s World Cup and that we hit the ground running and play up to people’s expectations and win,” he added.

The Barcelona man was also full of praise for his coach Diego Maradona, who has had a turbulent 18 months in charge of the Argentine national side.

“At first, it was strange to have him as our coach,” continued Messi. “The truth is he was a little imposing.”

“But afterwards, we started getting used to him and he’s been our coach for a while, so now it’s normal.

“Also, he’s really close to the players, he’s one of the guys, so there’s no problem. Maradona has always been very nice to me.”

Meanwhile in the England camp concerns have been eased over Steven Gerrard’s potential injury after the Liverpool midfielder was pulled off the pitch in a private 11-a-side practice match in the team’s Austrian training camp.

There was some good news for Fabio Capello however, with Gareth Barry looking on-track for a World Cup recovery and Sunderland forward Darren Bent returning to full training after complaining of tightness around his groin.

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