Lionel Messi on Saturday missed a spot-kick during Argentina’s 1-1 draw with Iceland, and the regrettable moment which could have boosted his side’s World Cup dreams at Spartak Stadium in Moscow, instead, aroused doubts that the Barcelona hit-man is ready to kiss the trophy.
Image shows Lionel Messi vs Iceland
Messi captains Argentina national team, and proofs of his capability to inspire others is like a signet ring on his finger, but a poor showing against a side making their debut World Cup appearance shows the South Americans may not survive Group D playoffs.
Argentina striker Sergio Aguero earned a penalty after a foul from Hordur Magnusson. Hopes for the White and Blue Stripes resonated until Hannes Thor Holldorsson saved Messi’s spot-kick.
Efforts from a star-studded Argentina proved futile and particularly pitiable but inspiring for other low-rated teams, when Messi, who singlehandedly qualified La Albiceleste for the global football tournament could hardly display part of his trademark abracadabra. His teammates still rely on his despite the disappointment.
However, it was Aguero who took the shine after failing to score in South Africa 2010 and Rio 2014 World Cups.
While football analysts praised Manchester City star Aguero for his outstanding performance, Messi received widespread criticisms for his penalty woes, his fourth in 7 attempts, Chicago Tribune noted.
“Iceland can afford to triple mark Messi because of his teammates’ ineffectiveness,” Rafael Hernandez of Goal.com wrote, adding that the Argentines need to step up individually and prove themselves capable of scoring or delivering from every angle like Aguero did for the first time in an international match.
The 2018 World Cup will, most likely, mark Messi’s long quest for success in global football competitions but his teammates are not helping his course of matching Diego Armando Maradona’s 1986 feat.
In the match against Iceland, Messi often had to drop deep, taking the role of a playmaker to create goal-scoring chances, yet, this effort required clinical finishers from the strikers, including Aguero, who proved himself an exception on Saturday. At this time, every football fan understands that Messi is human and not from another planet as widely believed. Every member of the team has roles to play in making this a viable strategy.
Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala got praise for their impressive individual performances and, as Ed Maylon rightly noted, Argentina’s backline is a problem that needs correction ahead of their remaining games against Nigeria and Croatia.
“Argentina’s attack is like its culture and patriotism, strong and impressive,” Maylon wrote, “but its defence is like its economy, weak and prone to implosion.”
Quite a good analysis which may offer a clue to why Argentina’s defence appeared disorganized on many occasions when Iceland tried a counterattack or used set pieces.
Gary Lineker advised Argentine strikers to get ready to score more goals if they wish to advance in the competition, taking cognizance that their defence line is prone to conceding even more against stronger opponents. All said, Messi would need a space travel for his alleged “supernatural powers” if Argentina are to reach the finals of Russia 2018 World Cup.
Leo has played in three World Cups prior to this tournament in Russia, where he wears the captain’s armband for the third time.
“I love my country and I love this shirt,” he said ahead of the debut game against Iceland.
The game against Iceland was meant to be memorable considering that on the same date 12 years ago, Messi scored his first World Cup goal wearing No. 19 in the game against Serbia & Montenegro. The score line was 6-0.
“What would I say to Messi before the match?” Iceland coach Heimir Hallgrimsson repeated to reporters in anticipation of an unfavorable result against Argentina. “It is the first one…There will be more ahead so, take it easy and don’t be a showboat.”
“We are very lucky that the best player in the world is from Argentina,” Jorge Sampaoli said about his star player Messi.
“Do I think he must win a World Cup to be considered the best of all time? No. I think football owes the trophy to him.”
The 5-time Ballon d’Or winner has scored five World Cup goals although none was recorded in South Africa 2010.