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Things looked gloomy for Argentina and its Captain Lionel Messi after the shocking loss against Saudi Arabia. The Argentina team looked dejected and could not believe what had just happened. Trailing by 1-0 at half time, Saudi Arabia adopted a wonderful counterattacking play and in no time, they led by 2-1 and won the match. This was the biggest upset of the tournament and the dream of a fitting farewell to the greatest of the game was looking distant. But maybe that was the wake-up call that the Albicelestes needed.
Since that match, the team grew, gathered strength, and has never looked back. They needed to beat Poland and Mexico to qualify for the round of 16. Argentina regrouped quickly after the painful loss and bounced back in style against Mexico. When things were getting tighter, the Argentine Jersey number 10, rose to the occasion once again as the ball whizzed past the Mexican goalkeeper Ochoa. The team comfortably beat Poland 2-0 in the next game and qualified for the round of 16. Argentina and Messi fought hard to live another day and the team marches ahead with the dream still intact.
It’s just Messi’s world & we are living in it
In the round of 16 matches against Australia, Messi did another unthinkable act. With such little space and so many defenders loitering around him, this little man still ran past them to score a goal and take an early lead in the match which proved to be the difference between the two sides. No Argentina match is complete without the heroics of Messi.
Superlatives will fall short to describe the assist of Messi against the Netherlands. The Dutch defense was indestructible this World Cup, but Leo had other plans. Messi tackled through the midfield and entered the Dutch defense area. There was almost no space for him to pass it to the other Argentine fielder and no other man who could do it. But the master who always scans for the gaps in the field and passed the ball between the Dutch legs perfectly to Molina who completed the formalities. He scored off a penalty in the same match followed by a cold celebration near the Dutch Camp in front of the manager.
Messi Against Croatia
We saw Messi magic again in the semifinal against Croatia. When Argentina received a penalty, the Argentina captain, stood there to take it. He took a deep breath, eyes on the goal post, with a quick run at the ball, left-footed Messi thudded the ball into the upper right corner of the goal post. The clarity and precision with which he scored the goal were extraordinary as if he had planned it a week before. But we saw another stroke of genius by Messi in the same match. The 35-year-old Messi outran the 20-year-old defender Joško Gvardiol who was not able to catch up with the pace of the little master. Gvardiol was clueless as Messi passed the ball to Alvarez who completed the 3-0 humiliation for Croatia. Joško Gvardiol was one of the best defenders of the tournament but was clueless against Messi. It was some sort of revenge for Argentina who was knocked out by the same opponent in the 2018 World Cup with the same scoreline.
— Gurbaksh Singh Chahal (@gchahal) December 13, 2022
Lionel Messi has played every single minute for Argentina in this World Cup. The 35-year-old youngster is looking as hungry as ever and there is no one stopping him this World Cup. He is sprinting like a 20-year-old, tackling defenders with ease just like in his prime. Messi has been charged up this world cup and isn’t afraid to show his emotions. The iconic celebration was one such moment.
Messi’s World Cup 2022 in numbers
Messi leads the way in multiple categories in this World Cup: Goals (5), Assists (3), Shots (27), Shots on target (14), Expected goals (4.75), Chances created (18), Fouls drawn (20), Open-play chances created (14), Take-Ons (36). He also has the most Man-of-the-Match awards (4).
The team has only one goal: “We have to win it for Messi. Whatever may happen, we will do it for our captain.”
This time the team has played as a single unit and there is no burden on Messi to do it alone. Mac Allister, Alvarez, Emiliano Martínez, and every other player in the squad have stood tall to give the little man the trophy he deserves. They are clicking together as a team and are willing to fight hard and do the hard yards to win the World Cup for Argentina after a long wait of 36 years. Under Scaloni, the team has gelled well and is looking threatening in all the departments. The team has not panicked under tough situations and has found a way to win matches, unlike other World Cups. Emi Martinez is committed to winning the World Cup for Lionel Messi and is willing to put his body on the line if needed. The way Messi ran to embrace Emi after the epic penalty shootout against the Netherlands sums up the love and respect between the captain and the goalkeeper.
Julian Alvarez: Messi fanboy
10 years ago, when Alvarez was just 12 years old, it was a fanboy moment for Alvarez to meet his idol Messi and click a photo with him. 10 years afterward, Alvarez scored 2 crucial goals in the semifinals to take Argentina one step closer to the dream. The master-apprentice duo has been exceptional to keep Argentina in the hunt for the ultimate goal.
Leo Messi 🤗 Julián Álvarez pic.twitter.com/s5TYkWynX2
— B/R Football (@brfootball) December 13, 2022
Scaloni, the coach of Argentina said before the World Cup that they want to win it for Messi, but do not want to put extra pressure on him. As it is his last World Cup, they want him to enjoy each game and not think much about the result.
Sometimes it feels that this World Cup is meant for Messi. The teammates have only one vision and one goal. Fans across the World are desperately looking to see Messi with the golden trophy in his hand. The stadiums are filled with blue and white jerseys with continuous drumbeats and cheers of “Messi” and “Argentina”. Messi also said that the late Argentine footballer and his childhood idol, Maradona are showering blessings from heaven on Argentina this World Cup.
FIFA WC 2022: Argentina in the Finals
In 4 days, Messi will be playing the biggest match of his career. One final hurdle stands between Messi and his dream. But this time, he is not alone. He has a strong squad with him and will do their best to win the trophy. The “Greatest Of All Time” player will be keen to cast another spell and keep them spellbound with his brilliance and get the only eluded trophy in his prolific career. He has been phenomenal this tournament and will be hoping that he gets a fitting farewell to a career that has been nothing short of a dream.