Messi, Argentina eye World Cup
Lionel Messi had just finished guiding Argentina through the group stage of the World Cup when talk quickly turned to what it would be like to be crowned world champions.
Messi's two goals on Wednesday against Nigeria brought his tally in Brazil to four, including the match-winners in Argentina's first two matches.
Argentina won all three of their Group F matches -- all just by a single goal -- but Messi and his team already have their eyes on the cup.
"There is nothing more beautiful than being a world champion and to see the joy of the entire country that is following us," Messi said after Wednesday's match.
Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella also touched on what it would mean for La Albiceleste to win their first World Cup since 1986.
"It is a professional desire, not only mine, but of all people of Argentina, the players and all the fans," Sabella said. "It's a dream that hasn't come true for a long time. We want to give 100 percent, which is the least we can do."
Messi said he was "doing fine" after being replaced in the 63rd minute against Nigeria, and Sabella acknowledged the substitution had been planned.
"We agreed on taking him out previously and discussed this," the coach said. "We needed to rest him."
However, the news on Sergio Aguero, who left in the 38th minute, was not as good, with Sabella saying the forward has "a muscular problem that will be assessed" on Thursday.
By winning Group F, Argentina will play the runners-up from Group E in the round of 16, and Messi said his team is just getting started.
"I'm happy to see how things have evolved," Messi said. "We wanted to qualify as soon as we got here and we hope to continue along this road."
Sabella said his team has shown improvement since the first match against Bosnia and Herzegovina.
"We wanted to finish first in the group from the very beginning," Sabella said. "The team improved again today and had good control of the ball. They were able to damage the opponent.
"As we advance, we will improve our structure. I don't like speaking about individual players, but we have seen improvement on the whole over the three games.
"We live off our results. If we win and play very well, I am always pleased, but am always looking to improve what has to be improved."
Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi was so impressed by Messi's play that he said the Barcelona man was "from Jupiter," which Messi took as a compliment.
"I thank the coach from Nigeria for these words," he said. "I'm happy for the victory and what Argentina showed today.
"Today, we saw a better Argentina."