Argentina striker Lionel Messi is set to make the 1,000th appearance of his career in Saturday’s World Cup Round of 16 with Australia.
He will earn his 169th cap in addition to 778 games for Barcelona and 53 games for current side Paris St-Germain.
If they lose, it could be the 35-year-old’s last time at a World Cup.
“We have to be mindful of everything. It won’t be up to one individual to stop him,” said Australian defender Harry Souttar.
Stoke City’s Souttar, who was born in Aberdeen and was a young Scottish international, was one of the stars of the Socceroos’ surprise run to the knockout stages.
“Messi was one of the two most outstanding players in the world [along with Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo]and it will be a long time before their tastes are reviewed.
“But, for tomorrow night, for 90 minutes, he is just one of the players we have to face.”
Messi scored twice at this World Cup before seeing a penalty saved against Poland.
Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni – whose side are second favorites behind Brazil to win the World Cup – has complained about his side’s reduced preparation time for the game.
Australia beat Denmark on Wednesday to qualify, with Argentina beating Poland four hours later to book their spot.
“Australia, who finished second in the group, played at 6 p.m. and we finished first but played at 10 p.m. We went to bed at 4 a.m. and that has an impact when you have a game in 48 hours,” said Scaloni, who took over after the 2018 World Cup.
“We’re going to break our backs on this pitch to compete, we know how tough this World Cup is, it’s football.”
Australia boss Graham Arnold is preparing his country for their second World Cup knockout tie. They lost 1-0 to Italy in the round of 16 in 2006.
“No disrespect to Argentina, but it’s 11 against 11, and it’s 10 blue shirts against 10 yellow shirts, and it’s a battle,” he said.
“It’s a war, and we have to fight that and make sure the boys are in great physical shape, in great mental shape, that they have great energy, and we go out there and give everyone fire.”
Argentinian Angel di Maria was withdrawn as a precaution against Poland due to a thigh problem and could therefore be on the bench.
Coach Lionel Scaloni must decide between Lautaro Martinez and Julian Alvarez in attack.
Australian coach Graham Arnold could stay with the same team that beat Denmark.
Full-back Nathaniel Atkinson is pushing for a recall for the ankle injury he suffered against France.
- Australia’s only win in seven games against Argentina was in their first encounter in 1988. Current Socceroos boss Arnold played in that game.
- Argentina have reached the knockout stage of the World Cup for the ninth time in the last 10 World Cups.
- Messi went 23 without scoring in the World Cup Round of 16 for Argentina.
- Australia won back-to-back games and kept back-to-back clean sheets for the first time at the World Cup. Their previous clean sheet before their two in this tournament dates back to 1974.