FIFA World Cup 2018: Messi, arguably football's greatest player is yet to fulfill his legacy
Argentina’s coach Jorge Sampaoli said Messi doesn’t owe a World Cup to Argentina, football owes a world cup to Messi.
Disheartened, disappointed and dismissed; these three words summarise Argentina’s 2018 world cup campaign. Argentina arrived at the grand stage of football as a strong contender to lift the World Cup. And the team was under the capable leadership of one of the greatest footballer ever played the game; Lionel Messi. In the 2014 World Cup Messi missed the grand prize of football by a whisker. It was Mario Gotze’s goal, which denied him and Argentina the World Cup. This time it was supposed to be different, he had a brilliant season with Barcelona scoring 34 goals and assisting 12. He even booked 2018 World Cup spot for Argentina in the last qualifying match.
Argentina qualified in the world cup with the help of Messi’s brilliance against Ecuador. Messi produced a single-handed brilliant performance in the game. When Argentina was 1-0 down inside 1 minutes of the game, Messi scored a hat trick and got Argentina qualified for the World Cup. After the match Argentina’s coach Jorge Sampaoli said Messi doesn’t owe a World Cup to Argentina, football owes a world cup to Messi.
These solo performances from the little man give rise to a mountain high expectation from him. At the club level, Messi is untouchable with 31 trophies for Barcelona. While for Argentina he was always a fallen hero, 3 major final defeats in the blue and white strip. Heavily criticised by the football pundits for failing to deliver for the country.
Fifa World Cup Russia 2018 was his chance to claim what rightfully belonged to him. Russia was supposed to become the arena where he would answer all his critics. And the world waited for the little magician to lead Argentina to the final glory.
In the first group match against Iceland, Argentina failed to get all 3 points. The match ended with a 1-1 draw and Messi failed to convert a penalty and wasted a couple of free-kick chances. Messi faced criticism for his performance against Iceland from everywhere. While, for a keen watcher of the game it was not hard to notice whenever Messi got the ball Iceland defender crowded him, fouled him and did not give him an inch of space to play. Messi paid the price of being one of the football’s great as he was always the marked man for every opponent he faced in the world cup.
Here comes the role of Coach Jorge Sampaoli who ran out of tactics every time Messi was stopped by opponents. Sampaoli not only failed in the tactics but also he failed to utilize the talent he had on the team. Paulo Dybala is considered as one of the brightest talents in the football world but Sampaoli did not bother to give him a chance to play.
Argentina getting out of the world cup was expected by the way they played their group stage matches. But Messi cannot be blamed for Argentina’s exit from the World Cup. Football is a collective sport, and Messi performed best as a team. His teammate Javier Mascherano said Messi has a conditioning effect on the collective performance. Mascherano believes that Messi’s best version depends on the team and Messi seems to echo this, always claiming he wins nothing alone.
Team Argentina has failed to deliver what is expected out of them in the world cup. While Messi was once again denied of his fate to win the world cup. Whether Messi will play in 2022 Qatar World Cup is questionable but he will be 35 years old then. If Messi does play in the 2022 Qatar World Cup and achieve success there, it will not be as the greatest player in the world putting the final seal on his legacy as he could have in Russia but it will a veteran player completing his one last job and achieving redemption at the very end of an international career that has been an enormous disappointment.