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FC Barcelona News: 15 June 2014: Barca Win Fair Play Awards, Messi Prepares For World Cup Opener

Lionel Messi and Javier Mascherano are preparing for their opening game of the World Cup, as Argentina square off against Bosnia in Rio de Janeiro later tonight

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Ronald Martinez

Barça’s first team have again won the Fair Play Award handed out by the Spanish Football Federation, with the B team winning the same prize in the second division. This is the fourth season on the run that the two sides have headed their respective league’s Fair Play tables – a double that no other Club have ever achieved.

Ten of Barça’s 12 players at the World Cup have made their debuts – with mixed fortunes – and Messi and Mascherano are due to begin their tournament at 11.00pm CET on Sunday, when Argentina take on Bosnia in Rio. Neymar has made a great start, with his brace against Croatia and Alexis also scored in Chile’s 3-1 win over Australia, but it was a rather grimmer start for Barça’s five Spanish players and Alex Song, whose Cameroon side lost to Mexico.

First, though, it is necessary to wade through the inevitable Diego-isms. Messi’s status as the greatest attacking club player of all time looks almost indisputable. With 243 goals (many of them exceptional in some way) in 238 starts for Barcelona, plus an apparent invulnerability to the pressure of big matches, it is hard to see what more he could have done with his talent. And yet there will always be reservations about his contribution with Argentina, if only because of the unique heights scaled by Diego Maradona. Which is where, this time around, the temptation to draw parallels with Maradona’s mensis mirabilis in 1986 start to arrive.

Lionel Messi takes centre stage today when Argentina face Bosnia in their World Cup opener in Rio De Janeiro. Four-times world player of the year Messi will spearhead the Argentine attack together with Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria on Sunday.

England have suffered a narrow defeat in their opening match of the 2014 World Cup, losing 2-1 to Italy in Manaus. Italy opened the scoring with a Claudio Marchisio goal in the 35th minute, only for England to strike back when Daniel Sturridge scored from a Wayne Rooney cross. The winning goal came for Italy in the 51st minute when Mario Balotelli scored with a header shortly after the half-time break.

Roared on by a sea of yellow-clad fans and driven forward by crafty 22-year-old attacking midfielder James Rodriguez, Colombia barely missed injured striker Radamel Falcao, though they will need to beat better sides than Greece to go much beyond the group stage.

Already this World Cup has delivered more excitement, more intrigue, more unexpected scorelines than was produced throughout the 2010 tournament. In Fortaleza, we had the result no-one was expecting. Perhaps not even the gaggles of red shirted Costa Rica fans waving their flags in astonishment all around this magnificent new stadium.

Japan's Keisuke Honda had put his team ahead with an impressive strike after 16 minutes and, as Ivory Coast continued to miss chance after chance, it seemed their bid to qualify for the knockout stage for the first time would take an early hit as Colombia had beaten Greece in Group C earlier in the day.

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