World Cup: Portland Timbers' Diego Valeri talks about Argentina's chances in Brazil
Diego Valeri isn't shy about his native Argentina when it comes to the World Cup. For the Portland Timbers attacker from Buenos Aires, the Albicelestes are his favorites in Brazil.
"Argentina is a great team with great players," said Valeri who spent many years with Lanús in the Argentina Primera División. "They won the first game and I think that game was the most important because Bosnia and Herzegovina are one of the strongest teams in the world."
Valeri has been a member of the Argentina national team in years past (see picture above from a friendly against Paraguay), and is excited about the possibilities for his countrymen as they head into their second game against Iran on Saturday (9am PT, ESPN). At age 28, Valeri is a national veteran and has played with nearly every big name on the Argetina roster at various levels including Lionel Messi, Ángel Di María, Fernando Gago and Lucas Biglia.
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That gives Valeri an inside edge on Argentina's strategy and players to watch as they try to make their way out of Group F and into the knockout round. While many will point to Messi as being a key player for the side, it's another attacking player for Argentina that Valeri says the world should watch out for.
"Di María has played great at Real Madrid," said Valeri. "He had a great last season and was awesome in the Champions League Final, so I think he will be one of the best on the national team."
In their first match of the 2014 World Cup, the Argentines struck first, scoring in the third minute off a set piece that resulted in an own goal for Bosnia and Herzegovina. In the second half, Messi worked his magic and put home a magical left-footed strike in the 65th minute to give his team the ultimate lead. Argentina went on to win, 2-1.
Despite a strong showing in their first match, it's not all national bias for Valeri. He knows that several teams in Brazil pose significant challenges to Argentina's final chances, with both the host team's Pentacampeão and Germany as particularly threatening opponents.
"For me the best team is Germany," said Valeri. "They can defend, they can attack very quickly and they can score in set pieces. They have great individual players and collectively they are great."
For now, Valeri is eagerly awaiting Saturday morning's Argentina kickoff against Iran as they try to get three more points and all but seal their ride to the knockout stage. Confident in his mates, Valeri predicted a win after training on Friday.
"I think tomorrow it is a 3-0 game," said Valeri. "If Argentina can score in the first 15 to 20 minutes then the game will open up."