Lionel Messi believes his Argentina side will continue to grow as a team at the Copa America after impressively making it out of the group stage unbeaten.
A back injury prevented the Barcelona magician from playing in the Group D opening win against Chile, but he returned to score a hat-trick in the 5-0 stroll over Panama before playing his part in the 3-0 victory against Bolivia.
Argentina have not won a trophy since the Copa America in 1993. They were runners-up in the tournament last year, losing to 2014 hosts Chile in the final, but Messi believes his side have developed since then and will continue to do so with the pressure on in the knock-out stages.
Lionel Messi seen here in training wants his side to make up for their defeat in last year’s final
The Argentine captain had been struggling with a back injury but has helped his side reach the quarter-final
Messi has warned his team-mates that it would be the wrong thing to do and look beyond Venezuela
LIONEL MESSI ARGENTINA STATS
FIFA World Youth Championship: 2005
Olympic Gold Medal: 2008
Runner-up FIFA World Cup: 2014
Runner-up Copa America: 2007, 2015
As we move forward, we’re going to grow,’ Messi told Ole.
‘We are doing well in all aspects. We have already been working together for a while and have got to know the coaching staff, and they us.
‘From the beginning until now, we have grown a lot.’
Two major tournament finals in the last couple of seasons, including the 2014 World Cup final defeat by Germany, have seen sections of fans criticise Messi for failing to replicate his club form on the international stage – despite 53 goals in 109 caps.
Sections of supporters have criticised Messi for failing to deliver the way he does for Barcelona
The Barcelona superstar juggles the ball and shows off some of his tattoos that cover most of his leg
Should Argentina bid to reach a third straight final, they face a tough quarter-final against Venezuela and the 28-year-old has warned off complacency.
‘We are aware there is no margin for error. Very tough matches are coming,’ Messi said. ‘Some think Venezuela are an easy opponent but they are not. We will not take anything for granted, we know what is at stake.
‘If Venezuela have reached the quarter-finals it’s on merit. No one gave them anything.
‘They are not better than Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay, obviously, but if Venezuela are there they deserve it.’
It was heartbreak at the 2014 World Cup as Messi and Argentina lost 1-0 to Germany in the final
After missing the opening game, Messi has since scored a hat-trick against Bolivia and been in fine form