As if he still hadn’t written enough fairy tales, Argentina’s little genius Lionel Messi has saved the most likely script for his final World Cup – with just one line left to write.
With immense pressure forcing him to compete against the late great Diego Maradona and send the trophy back to Buenos Aires, Messi lit up the Qatar league while others in the superstar class – Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo – competed. fight and leave.
From Argentina’s opening match to the semi-final against Croatia, Messi, nearing the end of his career and entering his fifth World Cup at the age of 35, was the standout star of the tournament.
His game stats say it all: six starts, five goals, three assists en route to Sunday final against France.
Breaking so many hard-to-follow records, Messi has beaten Maradona’s record of goals and appearances for Argentina at the World Cup, and on Sunday will surpass Lothar Matthaeus’ record of 25 league appearances.
However, beyond the incredible data, it is Messi’s mesmerizing movement and joyful celebrations that have excited football fans around the world.
Having spent large periods of time playing at a walking pace and rarely bothering to defend, Messi waited for his moments, making deadly effective use of his low center of gravity, his ability to change speed, and more. amazing speed and smooth runs with the ball stuck to your feet.
British sportswriter Jonathan Wilson wrote: “He is “a ghost floating on the periphery of the game until the right moment”. “You can mark a man; much harder to mark a ghost.”
After the shocking opening match against Saudi ArabiaIt was Messi who revived the team: then 5 wins.
His best goal was a classy strike from outside the box against Mexico.
And the pundits were still shaking their heads in disgust at his precise pass to Nahuel Molina to score Argentina’s first goal against the Netherlands in the quarter-finals. What makes it remarkable, and a contender for one of the greatest assists of all time, is that Messi didn’t look up and still find Molina with absurd perfection.
It was during that match that Messi cemented his Qatari love affair with Argentina fans, who in the past have sometimes compared him harshly with his outgoing personality, passion for the country and war. Maradona’s 1986 World Cup victory.
After scoring a penalty that enthralled the Argentinian fans, the normally immaculate Messi ran towards the Dutch bench cupping his ears in a provocative gesture.
Then, after the game, he faced off against a Dutch striker with a taunt caught on camera: “What are you looking at, idiot?”
Although some pundits criticized him for his lack of respect, Argentina fans were largely delighted by moments of Maradona-like defiance from the introverted Messi.
Some had tattoos of the phrase.
“The match against the Netherlands was when his ‘inner Maradona’ finally showed up. They are one. They are eternal. They are Argentinians!” Jorge Castellanos, an ecstatic fan who was watching the match with a flag depicting both men hand in hand, said.
Despite such acclaim, it is well known that true immortality parity with Maradona – at least in the biggest sports league on the planet – still hinges on beating the French.
Many non-Argentinians have long considered Argentina their second team, hoping Messi will win the World Cup if their nation fails to complete a beautiful story.
‘THANK YOU, TEACHER’
Messi left Argentina at the age of 13 to join Barcelona’s youth academy.
Despite worries that he was too small, the boy shone in the youth ranks before being introduced to the first team by coach Frank Rijkaard at the age of 16 in a friendly against Porto in 2003.
Messi continues to become Barcelona’s all-time top scorer with 672 goals in 778 games.
In one season 2011-12, he broke the La Liga scoring record with 50 goals. In total, he won 35 trophies with Barcelona, including 10 La Liga titles and four Champions League trophies, before moving to Paris St Germain last year.
Along the way, he won Ballon d’Or sets a record seven times and FIFA Player of the Year.
For Argentina, he is the all-time leading scorer and led his nation to Copa America glory last year after 28 years of title drought including a string of heartbreaking defeats in games. final.
All that’s missing from Messi’s story is a World Cup.
But even if the unthinkable happens and Argentina loses, it looks like he has won over a country that now knows Messi loves the shirt as much as Maradona, giving them magical moments over the years. , and simply couldn’t try harder or come any closer to lifting the world cup.
Argentine journalist Sofia Martinez Mateos summed up the mood as she ended her interview with Messi this week not with a question but with a speech on behalf of the nation.
“The final is coming and of course we all want to win, but I want to tell you that whatever the outcome, there is one thing that no one can take away from you,” she said. with Messi.
“You have entered the hearts of every Argentinian. Honestly, there’s no kid without your shirt. You marked all of our lives… Keep that in mind because it’s more important than a World Cup and you’ve won it, thank you Captain.”
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