Messi in a better team than Maradona, says Ardiles

The 1978 World Cup winner says the pressure for the Barcelona forward to perform is huge, but stresses that he will benefit from a stronger squad than seen in previous tournaments

Ossie Ardiles admits that Lionel Messi will feel the weight of expectation at the World Cup but will also be supported by a better Argentina side than Diego Maradona had in 1986.

Maradona captained the South American nation at the 1986 World Cup where they overcame West Germany 3-2 in the final, winning the Fifa Golden Ball as the tournament's best player in the process.

Ardiles feels that Messi has pressure on him to emulate the exploits of his famous compatriot in Brazil but stresses that it would not be a fair comparison considering the wealth of talent that will accompany him on the pitch.

"There is a lot of expectation on Messi," the 61-year-old wrote in his column for the Times of India.

"Everyone talks about how Maradona made the 1986 edition his own, and all expect Messi to do the same. But Messi has a better team than Maradona did in 1986 and luckily for him, he has people like Sergio Aguero and Angel di Maria alongside him.

"All the top players in the world today, whether it is Cristiano Ronaldo, Arjen Robben or Robin van Persie, play under huge pressure. How they handle it is what matters. Despite the pressure they still have to go out there and do their job."

Alejandro Sabella's team begin their Group F campaign against Bosnia and Herzegovina on Sunday but, despite aiming to be named world champions for a third time, Ardiles stressed that they first cannot underestimate the World Cup debutants.

"Argentina are one of the clear favourites and as they go into their first match with Bosnia," he continued.

"The odds are in favour of Argentina winning. This is Bosnia's first match on such a big stage and they are sure to be a bit nervous. I'm also sure that they will come in with quite a defensive plan, and play for a draw if they can. They know that they have to contain the Argentinean attack, especially Messi.

"I don't think they are going to be easy at all. In fact I know their manager Safet Sucic. We played together at Paris Saint-Germain in 1992. He was a wonderful centre-forward. Very, very talented and well organised and I am sure that he is going to try and make the game very difficult for Argentina indeed.

"Argentina fans would love to see their team lift the cup, more so because they would be doing so in their arch-rivals' backyard. So there is enormous pressure on Messi and Co."