Argentina's reigning FIFA World Player of the Year, Lionel Messi, insisted on Tuesday he did not crack under the weight of expectation when he played for the national side and he would show that at the upcoming FIFA World Cup™ finals.

The 22-year-old Barcelona star has often been criticised for not reproducing his stellar club form at international level, but Messi - who arrived in from Spain where he ended the season with 34 league goals as Barca retained the title - said that was not the case.

"I am going to to try and do what I do at Barcelona," said Messi. "I am full of hope and really desire to do well [in South Africa where the tournament runs from 11 June to 11 July]. I am used to the pressure. I play for Barcelona who are one of the most important teams in the world and where it is obligatory to always win."

I am used to the pressure. I play for Barcelona who are one of the most important teams in the world and where it is obligatory to always win.

Messi defends his national team record

Messi, who flew in to join up with his fellow squad members and coach Diego Maradona, said he thought that Argentina could surprise many and lift the World Cup for the third time in their history.

"For me, Argentina is a serious candidate for the title even if nobody puts us among the favourites. And I believe that is a good thing for us."

Argentina are in Group B along with 2002 semi-finalists Korea Republic, African heavyweights Nigeria and Euro 2004 champions Greece.