Argentina news

Lionel Messi wants to meet Pope Francis

March 21, 2013
By ESPN.com news services

Lionel Messi feels "proud" that Pope Francis is a fellow Argentine and wants to meet the new head of the Roman Catholic church.

Argentina are just two wins away from booking their place in Brazil
GettyImagesArgentina is just two wins away from booking a place in Brazil.

Messi spoke Thursday for the first time on Pope Francis after training with the rest of the Argentina squad for Friday's World Cup qualifier against Venezuela in Buenos Aires.

Pope Francis is a former archbishop of Buenos Aires and life-long supporter of soccer club San Lorenzo, which is based in the Argentine capital. Messi grew up as a fan of Newell's Old Boys, a team located in the city of Rosario.

Argentina leads South America teams in World Cup qualifying thus far with 20 points and two wins this round would keep Alejandro Sabella's squad comfortably ahead to make the cut.

Messi said "the matches are important and (in winning) the six points we would take a great step forward."

He added that the Argentine fans seem to receive the team at home better now that they have been winning.

"After a lot of less than favorable results the fans were not so devoted and now they have more illusions than ever before," Messi told the media Thursday. "This is great and we have to remain united to reach the goal we all want. Venezuela knows why they are playing and what they want so they will be a tough rival."

Messi attributed the previous loss to Venezuela to factors of heat and an lucky goal.

"Tomorrow's match is going to be tough because Venezuela has a good team that is pulled together and can hold its own against our fast pace," he said. "We have to be ourselves and play the game we have been playing up until now."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.