Argentina and Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi has been unfairly vindicated for his country’s poor showing at the 2018 World Cup, writes MARSHALL GOUTS.
Argentina’a somewhat precarious position that they find themselves in at the 2018 World Cup has cast a light on an interesting topic – the role of an individual within a team from whom much (more) is expected when it comes time to delivering the goods.
Upon the conclusion of match day 2, Argentina find themselves staring at the brink of elimination, following their shock 1-1 draw against Iceland and their 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Croatia.
La Albiceleste still have the opportunity to advance to the last-16 phase of the tournament, provided they secure victory against Nigeria, while hoping minnows Iceland do not do the same against already qualified Croatia.
The two-time World Cup winners were shockingly bad in their performances, with coach Jorge Sampaoli’s tactics coming under heavy scrutiny – with the most notable criticism coming from 1986 World Cup winner Diego Maradona.
Amongst all this murmurs in the camp and noise in the media, I noticed one constant. The criticism and/or mention of Messi.
Could it be, because he missed the tournament’s first penalty kick? Or the fact that he single-handedly helped seal their spot at the spectacle when qualification didn’t seem possible? Or could it be the five Ballon d’Ors that he has in his trophy cabinet?
Point is, every time, Argentina does poorly, Messi bears the (witting or unwitting) backlash of media outlets and supporters, because face it – one cannot speak about Argentina without the mention of Messi can you now?
Now, I’m not saying Messi’s World Cup performance has been flawless – on the contrary, far from it, however, let’s remind ourselves that core aspect of football is it being a team effort, no matter how great one or more said individual(s) might be.
So by that token – where have the likes of Angel Di Maria, Ever Banega, Sergio Aguero, Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain been in this and other major tournaments?
Just a reminder that Messi has suffered three losses in finals with Argentina, twice in the COPA America tournament and once in the 2014 World Cup final.
Imagine the amount of criticism and pain that the traditionally successful Barcelona star has had to endure in trying to bring success to the national team – it almost equates to the weight of having to carry his country on his shoulders!
It may sound absurd, but I think Messi and others like him (not many out there) will inevitably suffer at national team level as a result of setting the bar so high on an individual basis, regardless of the impact of his teammates.