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‘Pitbull’ Medel must master Messi

‘Pitbull’ Medel must master Messi

SANTIAGO: The Copa America final between Argentina and hosts Chile could turn upon a showdown between Lionel Messi’s brilliance and the combative Gary Medel, whose ‘Pitbull’ nickname perfectly sums up his style.

The well-travelled defensive midfielder Medel will have the near-impossible job of controlling Messi ‘The Flea’ in Saturday’s clash between the arch-rivals.

Messi danced around Paraguay’s defenders as Argentina fired six goals past them in the semi-final this week. Medel provoked jitters for his side when he scored an own goal that put Peru level before Chile secured a 2-1 win to reach the final.

Argentina captain Messi has now gone more than 900 minutes without scoring a goal from open play in an international game.

But he has remained a world class threat who had a hand in virtually all of Argentina’s goals against Paraguay.

“Hopefully, I can score in the final, but it really doesn’t matter if I score or if one of my team-mates does, the most important thing is that we have accomplished our prime objective, which was to qualify for the final,” said Messi.

Medel , 27, embodies the never-say-die spirit of the Chilean team. The Inter Milan player always seems ready for a rumble and admits that as a child he was always in trouble for fighting.

“I am a nice kind of crazy,” Medel said.

Medel’s kind of crazy is getting sent off for slapping Atletico Madrid rival Diego Costa (now at Chelsea) while playing at Sevilla. Medel was also sent off in the semi-final of the U-20 World Cup in Canada in 2007 which was followed by a showdown between Chilean players and police in the car park after.

Canadian newspapers said Medel was shot in the back with a taser. He will not say what happened.

But his passing is pinpoint and his rugged defending could be enough to unnerve Messi who he impressively controlled in some La Liga battles.

Published in Dawn, July 4th, 2015

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