BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil (AP) — Argentina traveled to Brazil on Monday trying to temper the sky-high expectations that have taken hold among some media, fans and even national football officials.
Hundreds of Argentine fans cheered the team on as it left Buenos Aires in a chartered jet and a smaller number greeted the players when they arrived in the Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte.
They have good reason to be confident. Argentina has a more close-knit team than when it got crushed by Germany in the quarterfinals four years ago, and 10 goals in qualifying helped star forward Lionel Messi shake off his reputation of underachieving for the national team.
But its full potential is hard to assess because it hasn't played a major football power since losing to Uruguay in its final World Cup qualifier in October.
"It's great that people are excited, but we're taking it step by step. We know the World Cup is difficult and anything can happen," Messi said after Argentina beat Slovenia 2-0 in its last warm-up game.
Ahead of the team's arrival, an Argentine federation official had a greeting put up on the gate of the team base in Belo Horizonte saying "Welcome future champions." He acknowledged that some players, including Messi, weren't thrilled by the triumphalism, and the sign was quickly removed.
After the Slovenia match Messi brushed off a TV reporter who asked whether he should bring a flag saying "Argentina campeon" to Brazil.
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