3 Argentines that could lighten Messi’s load against Belgium

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There’s been no escaping the fact that Argentina have been carried to the quarter-final stage at the World Cup on Lionel Messi’s shoulders.

It’s so obvious that even national hero and former manager Diego Maradona has warned of the dangers of riding the Messi-wagon all the way through this tournament.

He said: “They (Argentina) need to get it into their heads that we can’t be ‘Sporting Messi’. Maybe he can score a great goal but if it doesn’t come off for the kid, we can’t jump on him tomorrow as if it’s an Argentine disaster.”

Should La Albiceleste heed that advice, then their quarter final with Belgium is the perfect time to show it and we’ve picked out the three men who can help lighten Messi’s load:

Angel Di Maria @ 7/2

Messi may have scored four of Argentina’s seven goals at the tournament, but the Barcelona man can’t compete with his Real Madrid rival for shots.

Di Maria, who has impressed greatly during the finals and has a goal of his own to speak of, has taken 21 shots so far – five more than Messi in the same number of appearances.

Rodrigo Palacio @ 5/2

The Inter Milan man is seemingly battling Ezequiel Lavezzi to play on the opposite wing to Di Maria and, after two spritely performances off the bench, could well come into the starting XI in place of the 29-year-old.

Despite being restricted to just two subs appearances, Palacio has equalled Lavezzi’s number of shots even though PSG man has started one match ad come on in another two.

Federico Fernandez @ 14/1

Along with Messi, Di Maria and the Bosnia own goal, the other Argentina strike at this tournament came from a defender.

He (Marcos Rojo) isn’t playing against Belgium through suspension, but there’s every chance Fernandez, who has two international goals from 26 appearances, could bag from a set piece.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.