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Lionel Messi and co return to training as Argentina claim family time will give them World Cup edge against Netherlands

BRIGHTON midfielder Alexis Mac Allister believes a spot of family down-time will prove Argentina’s secret World Cup weapon.

Coach Lionel Scaloni gave his players two free days to spend with their loved ones after the last 16 squeak past Australia.

Lionel Messi is back refreshed as Argentina prepare to meet Holland
Alexis Mac Allister believes Argentina desperately needed their two days’ off
Rodrigo De Paul gives Messi a friendly scare during training in Doha

That ended a hectic programme of four games in 11 days, starting with the upset defeat by Saudi Arabia.

And after Lionel Messi’s inspirational efforts led the Albiceleste to the last eight once again, Amex schemer Mac Allister suggested Scaloni’s instincts had been exactly what the squad needed.

He said: “Those moments with our families are important to unwind and enjoy the World Cup.

“We really needed that time off, to rest and recover.

“The match against Australia came pretty close after the final group game but we’ve now had the chance to rest, see our families and unwind. 

“Those couple of days were excellent for us. We’re feeling great. We enjoy it and we are very much united.

“But the squad knows we are facing an important game and that this is the crucial part for everyone.”

Messi is the only survivor from the Argentine team that started the 2014 semi-final shoot-out win over Holland in Brazil.


Mac Allister was just 15 at the time and recalled: “ remember I watched the match with my family at home. All of them. I enjoyed it. 

“Now I’m here and to be able to play gives me great pride. I’m super excited. I always think of my pathway, and everyone around me. It gives me enormous pride.”

Some 40,000-plus Argentine fans are expected to flood the Lusail Iconic Stadium this evening and Scaloni promised: “Our people should enjoy the game. 

“We will break our backs for our country and to represent them as best we can. 

“This is football. It’s sport and I really hope we can be happy. 

“But even if it isn’t a positive result, I hope the people can identify with these players, with how much they are giving for their country.”

Paulo Dybala and Enzo Fernandez are hoping to knock out the Dutch
Messi will take centre stage in the World Cup quarter-finals on Friday

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