Messi will find World Cup harder: Uruguay captain

By Giovanna Fleitas

MONTEVIDEO (Reuters) - Defenders could ruin Lionel Messi's plans to shine at the World Cup because they will focus on marking the Argentine who is out of this world, Uruguay captain Diego Lugano said.

The Fenerbahce central defender who faced Messi twice during the South American qualifiers told Reuters in an interview that Messi would only stand out at the South Africa finals if Argentina do well.

"For Messi at the World Cup it can get a bit more difficult because the matches will be tighter," Lugano said, speaking from Turkey.

"Opponents are going to mark him very hard and although he will make a difference because he is out of this world, it will be tougher (for him than in other tournaments).

"It's also going to depend a lot on how things go for his national team for him to stand out but there's no doubt we're talking about one of the most spectacular players of all time."

Messi soared to new heights with four goals when Barcelona beat Arsenal 4-1 at home in the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Tuesday.

However, FIFA's World Player of the Year has struggled to translate his Barcelona form to Argentina and was criticized at home for a perceived lack of commitment.


Lugano, 29 and yet to win his first cap when Uruguay last played at the finals in Asia in 2002, named Brazil midfielder Kaka and Messi's Barcelona team mate Xavi of European champions Spain as players who could also shine in South Africa.

"Spain are playing a game that is superior to all others, without doubt they will arrive at the World cup as big favorites, then at the World cup anything can happen, but there is proof they are the national team in the best shape," he said.

He said record five-times champions Brazil and Argentina, despite their qualification troubles, were also favorites with their background and world class players.

"The historic teams will also be making their mark on the championship and I hope Uruguay can get in among them."

(Writing by Rex Gowar; Editing by Sonia Oxley)