ONE MORE TIME: CAN LIONEL MESSI POWER ARGENTINA TO AN INTERNATIONAL TROPHY AFTER FOUR FINAL DISSAPOINTMENTS?
For more than a decade now Argentina have been waiting for the enigma of football that we refer to as Messi to deliver International success. The six time Balon D’or winner has galloped and fallen at the penultimate stage a number of times.
A serial winner at club level Messi has had to settle for second place four times now. The Barcelona living legend has experienced the horror of “What If” once during the 2014 World Cup and thrice in the Copa America.
Messi has thus failed to emulate the feats of Diego Maradona. It is a popular, albeit faulty, line of belief that Maradona single-handedly won Argentina the World Cup in 1986. It was arguably the greatest ever individual tournament but he still had support from his team. The lack of an international trophy makes Messi somewhat inferior than El Diego in the eyes of many Argentinian and worldwide fans.
SO CLOSE BUT YET SO FAR
Most players in football would trade their soul to have a CV to that of Lionel Messi. Having won 35 trophies over the course of his career, the Argentinian is well aware of the International success that eludes him. Coming close on four occasions it’s humanely impossible to recuperate from the lows and keep pushing forward, but it’s hunger, drive, determination and hard work that has driven the master to save face on the Mount Rushmore of football legends.
In 2007 a young Messi made his debut in the Copa America. Having just become a regular in the Barcelona team, it was Messi’s 2nd major International tournament having already played in the 2006 World Cup. However, it was this tournament where he lit the stage with some mesmerizing displays.
In the game against Mexico, Messi was at his electrifying best, the goal he scored past Oswaldo Sanchez is still one of the best goals he has scored in his career.
It was the golden generation for Argentina, the team led by manager Alfio Basile boasted of Javier Mascherano, Pablo Aimar, Javier Zanetti, Juan Sebastian Veron, Roman Riquelme Esteban Cambiasso, Gabriel Heinze, Diego Milito, Hernan Crespo and Carlos Tevez. With a perfect record, Argentina reached the final against arch-rivals Brazil and were favourites to win, however goals from Julio Baptista Dani Alves and an own goal from Roberto Ayala spelt a heartbreaking end.
Arguably Messi’s best tournament, the 2014 World Cup was another example of capitulation at the final stage. Argentina started brightly with good chances for Gonzalo Higuain and Ever Banega. However, they were made to pay for their proliferation as Germany listed the trophy thanks to Mario Goetze’s 113th minute winner.
Written in the stars in a million miles away, the Demi-God among the commons suffered back to back Copa nightmares. The agony to deliver at the final continued to haunt Leo. Losing both finals to Chile on penalties proved particularly galling. As the long wait for tangible success evades the Argentinian can he deliver continental success this time around?
MESSI’S 2021 BRIGADE
It’s that time of the year again when the Lionel Messi cheer squad, football analyst and football pundits wax lyrical of Argentina’s quest to glory. This well could be Messi’s last shot at continental glory. The optimism grows as the tournament beckons.
The dismissal of Jorge Sampaoli has brought about stability to the national camp. According to reports, Messi is happy with the strong decisive and drastic decisions taken by new manager Lionel Scaloni. The older generation squad has been slowly phased out.
Players like Higuain and Banega have been replaced by younger talents like Lautaro Martinez, Giovani Lo Celso, Leandro Paredes and Rodrigo Paul. The addition of young blood has provided a youthful exuberance and thus increased the competitive levels.
The key to success has always been to keep your experience players happy and your young players hungry. Scaloni has achieved both objectives and it’s been evident with the approval of Messi.
Argentina are drawn in a tough Group A along with Bolivia, Uruguay, Chile and Paraguay. Well aware of the pain suffered at the hands of Chile, Messi will be seeking to make amends to wipe out the past horrors.
Galvanising and gatecrashing moments throughout his career, his time is now. No one can ever question the genius that will forever be immortalised but for a man whose winning mantra was set in stone right from the day he was born to watching his hero Maradonna lift the World Cup, he will want an International trophy to determine his legacy.
If the Gods are kind,m irrespective of the tournament result, the football fraternity will want to see Messi go on and on. Whether a fan or not, it’s almost criminal to not embrace the fact that a talent like Messi might never resurface. We’ve had the Jordans, the Woods, the Tendulkars, the Schumachers, the Federers. Consider ourselves lucky to not bypass the golden generation of sport.
The summer could we one final hurrah to the boy from Argentina who dazzled the world and achieved it all. So sit back and pour yourself a drink cause the summer of football bonanza is about beckon and with it will come Lionel’s Mess’s Argentina brigade.