Maradona: Messi needs to deliver for Argentina like Neymar has for Brazil

The 53-year-old has called on the Barcelona star to produce for his national side, as his club team-mate has done with his four goals for the Selecao so far at the World Cup
Diego Maradona believes Lionel Messi needs to deliver for Argentina as Neymar has done so far for Brazil at the World Cup this summer.

Neymar is currently leading the goalscoring charts in the competition with his four goals in three group games having played a big part in the Selecao qualifying for the last 16 of the tournament.

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The 22-year-old’s Barcelona team-mate, Messi, has scored two goals in two matches for Argentina so far – one in the 2-1 win over Bosnia and Herzegovina and another to clinch a narrow 1-0 victory in the dying stages of the game against Iran.

Maradona has admitted that despite Neymar’s difficult season settling in at Barcelona last term, his impressive form for Brazil is something that former four-time Ballon d'Or winner, Messi, will need to emulate at the World Cup if Argentina are to win the competition.

“At 1-1 [against Cameroon], the contest was even and it took the genius of Neymar to calm home nerves. He hasn't been a big hit at Barcelona yet, but wearing the yellow shirt, the 22-year old has had some amazing success,” the Argentina icon told The Times of India.

“Brazil are depending on him and instead of getting weighed down, he has shown that he can carry the pressure of expectation.

“He struck at the right time and the second one was crucial because it brought Brazil back at a time when they were all over the place.

“Argentina fans will expect from Messi what Neymar has done for Brazil. He has scored two beautiful goals in what has been an average campaign for his team so far.”

Luiz Felipe Scolari’s team are under pressure from supporters to clinch their sixth World Cup trophy on home soil this summer, especially after the early elimination of reigning champions Spain alongside European sides such as Italy and England.

But while Maradona has praised the Selecao for their passionate start to the competition, the 53-year-old has also warned that they need to improve defensively if they want to go all the way and win the title.

“Barring one or two incidents like the own goal in the first match and the goalless draw in the second, the World Cup has followed the script every Brazilian wanted," he said.

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“The hosts can take that if they want but should also review the way they have played so far. If they do that, Brazil will find there is as much to worry about as there is to be upbeat.

“Usually, one doesn't talk about weaknesses after a 4-1 win, but the way Brazil defended in the first half against Cameroon will surely excite other teams. There was no resistance in the midfield and their defence crumbled every time the Africans constructed a move.”

Maradona added: “The Brazil teams which won the title in 1994 and 2002 had muscle in the midfield and defence but this lot look vulnerable in those departments.

"With sterner tests coming up, these areas will come under closer examination and Brazil must show they can cope better with the occasion to live up to expectations.”