- Title: ARGENTINA: FOOTBALL/SOCCER: Lionel Messi says he'd like to meet Pope Francis
- Date: 21st March 2013
- Summary: BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA (MARCH 21, 2013) (REUTERS) EXTERIOR OF THE ARGENTINE FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION HEADQUARTERS THE ARGENTINE AND FIFA FLAGS BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA (MARCH 19, 2013) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF THE ARGENTINE NATIONAL SOCCER TEAM DURING TEAM PRACTICE VARIOUS OF ARGENTINA STAR, LIONEL MESSI, WATCHING PRACTICE BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA (MARCH 21, 2013) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) ARGENTINA FORWARD, LIONEL MESSI, SAYING: "It is for all of us, all Argentines, that the pope is from here. And obviously yes, some day I'd like to meet him." BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA (MARCH 19, 2013) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF ARGENTINA TEAM PRACTICE VARIOUS OF ARGENTINA COACH, ALEJANDRO SABELLA, DURING PRACTICE BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA (MARCH 21, 2013) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) ARGENTINA COACH, ALEJANDRO SABELLA, SAYING: "This is a very tough game because it is and we still haven't won anything. We are taking a path, and its going well." BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA (MARCH 19, 2013) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF ARGENTINA TEAM PRACTICE
- Embargoed: 5th April 2013 13:00
- Location: Argentina
- Country: Argentina
- Topics: Religion,Religion,Sports
- Reuters ID: LVA9PEBWD6XFLL93YWM9PZSO442Z
- Story Text: As Argentina prepare for what could prove a tough World Cup qualifier with Venezuela on Friday (March 22), Lionel Messi on Thursday (March 21) said he was proud the new leader of the Catholic Church also hails from the Southern Cone nation.
Argentina lead the nine-nation South American group with 20 points, three more than second-placed Ecuador who face Paraguay at home on Tuesday (March 26).
The Argentines hope to solidify their lead with a win against Venezuela who were once South America's whipping boys, but who now are demanding more respect on the field.
Between team practices, Messi on Thursday said he would like to meet newly installed Pope Francis who was previously the archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Bergoglio.
"It is for all of us, all Argentines, that the pope is from here. And obviously yes, some day I'd like to meet him," Messi said of the head of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics who was named on March 13.
But before meeting the pontiff, Messi and his team-mates will be looking for a big win over Venezuela, the only team to beat Argentina in the nine matches so far.
Venezuela have grown into a confident side who believe they could also defeat the group leaders on their home patch when they meet at Argentina's Monumental Stadium.
Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella warned against being too confident against a formidable opponent.
"This is a very tough game because it is and we still haven't won anything. We are taking a path, and its going well," Sabella said.
Venezuela, in the last of the four qualifying berths for next year's finals in Brazil, with 12 points, ahead of Uruguay on goal difference.
The team in fifth place after the final round of group matches in October will meet an Asian side in a playoff for one more berth, a position Uruguay found themselves in four years ago before their remarkable run to the semi-finals in South Africa.
Messi's and his team will want a good result at the Monumental ahead of their daunting trip to high-altitude La Paz four days later when they will be out to avenge a 6-1 pasting by Bolivia when Diego Maradona took Argentina there in 2009.
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