Lionel Messi is “quite simply the best player in the world”, Colombia coach Jose Pekerman said ahead of his side’s Copa America quarter-final clash with Argentina.
The two sides meet in Vina del Mar on Friday in the last eight, and while Messi has not been at his brilliant best in Chile – his only score involvement was his penalty against Paraguay – Pekerman believes the Barcelona star remains the toughest of propositions.
“Messi is quite simply the best player in the world and Argentina have played in the same way that they did at the World Cup,” Pekerman told a news conference on Thursday.
“They have some new elements that are contributing much to the team too, with Gerardo Martino beginning to implement his plan for them.”
Colombia have been struck by a number of injuries and suspensions of late, with Carlos Bacca, Carlos Sanchez and Edwin Valencia all out of the Argentina tie, but Pekerman has faith in his squad’s ability to overcome the misfortune.
“It is not the first time we have suffered such disadvantages with injuries and absences in the team,” Pekerman said.
“We’re used to dealing with difficult situations, and we are looking forward to a good game.
“We are eager to really participate in this game. We have talent in all positions, so we know we have enough.”
Pekerman also paid tribute to Diego Maradona’s father Don Diego, who died on Thursday aged 87.
“I cannot deny the fact that I have to send enormous regards and a big hug to Diego [Maradona] and all his family,” the Argentina-born coach said.
“We have always been united by many things. I wanted to be near him and his family in this moment.
“I knew about the health situation of Diego’s father. So a big hug to Diego.
“I do also remember your dad hanging out of the wire fence as he used to see you so young with the players of the first team, and this smile and goodness that your father had, I will never forget.”
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