Lionel Messi is confident Argentina can grow into genuine contenders to win the World Cup.
Having rallied to secure third spot in the CONMEBOL qualifying group, Argentina were thrashed 6-1 by Spain in a friendly during March.
Jorge Sampaoli’s men, though, will face Israel in the final warm-up match before heading to Russia on the back of a 4-0 win over Haiti, when Messi scored a hat-trick.
Argentina open their Group D campaign against Iceland at the Otkritie Arena in Moscow on June 16, before taking on Croatia and Nigeria.
Messi feels La Albiceleste can bring some confidence into the tournament, which they will be looking to win for a third time and go one better than when beaten by Germany in the 2014 final.
In an interview with Paper Magazine, Messi said: “It will be important to prepare well, because in the qualifiers we were fighting up to the end and we didn’t have time to prepare ourselves.
“We still have to make ourselves stronger as a team to be in the running to win and be at the same level as other teams like France, Germany, Brazil or Spain, but we have a good group of players and the Argentine team is always going to be a candidate to win, it doesn’t matter how we get there.
“We always aim to win and we will try to go slowly, but strongly to advance in the competition.”
Messi may head to Russia lauded as one of the leading footballers in the world, but the 30-year-old Barcelona forward intends to keep himself grounded.
“I don’t consider myself the best, I think I am just another player. On the field, we are all the same when the game begins,” Messi added.