After a complacent World Cup qualifying campaign, Argentina has snuck through arguably the toughest confederation and qualified for the World Cup in Russia next summer. For months, however, soccer fans had feared the worst – a World Cup without Lionel Messi.
But in the final qualifying match, Lionel Messi showed the world that he does not plan to watch the competition from home. With an unforgettable performance, he single-handedly took Argentina to Russia in a match Argentines lauded as his most important to date.
It is because of Messi, that Argentina has gotten the opportunity to appear in three straight international tournament finals. And now it is because of Messi they get the opportunity once again. However, Messi, believe it or not, is only human, and he can’t do it all on his own. He needs some help to win the coveted trophy, and the rest of his Argentina squad owes it to him.
Up until now, Messi has pretty much been on his own. In the past 4 years, Argentina has been the runner-up in 3 straight tournaments, getting there due to Messi’s heroics. These are the number’s he’s put up in all three tournaments.
2014 World Cup (7 games)
- 4 goals scored, 1 assist
- 80% passing rate
- Golden Ball winner
- FIFA World Cup Best XI
2015 Copa America (6 games)
- 1 goal scored, 3 assists
- 84% passing rate
- Golden Ball winner (reportedly, but rejected the award)
- 4 time Man of the Match winner
2016 Copa America Centenario
- 5 goals scored, 4 assists
- 82% passing rate
- Silver Boot (second highest goalscorer)
- Copa America Best XI
Most recently Argentina depended on Messi to get through CONMEBOL qualifying and reach the 2018 World Cup.
No one else on the team comes close to Messi’s stats, despite having high-caliber players such as Angel DiMaria, Sergio Aguero, and Gonzalo Higuain.
Argentina’s World Cup qualifying campaign looked as if it were on the same path as their finals losses. Down 1-0 to Ecuador just 2 minutes in, the trip to Russia looked further and further away. That was at least until Messi struck.
With 12 minutes on the clock, he tied the game. Nine minutes later, he gave his nation the lead. In the second half, he completed his hattrick and booked Argentina’s tickets to Russia next summer.
▶️ One, two, three…it's so easy for #Messi.
Another look at the most important hat-trick in his career: https://t.co/XzNxS10MTE
— beIN SPORTS USA (@beINSPORTSUSA) October 11, 2017
It was a complete display from La Pulga, saving Argentina from utter embarrassment, and carrying them to another competition, despite the complacency from the rest of his team throughout qualifying.
Argentina Have To Carry Their Weight
It’s odd to describe what has been going on with the Argentine national soccer team. They’ve longtime been considered a powerhouse, boasting an abundance of talent and having been crowned World Cup champions twice. Most recently, they have reached three consecutive finals, coming up empty-handed each time.
It’s not like the Argentine national team lack the talent. On paper, the roster boasts a very talented supporting cast for Messi. Among the talent in Argentina are Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero and Nicolas Otamendi, Juventus’ Paulo Dybala, PSG’s Angel DiMaria, Barcelona’s Javier Mascherano, and Manchester United’s Sergio Romero and Marcos Rojo.
However, the team has failed time and time again to help Messi end their nation’s 24-year international trophy drought.
In the 2014 World Cup, Messi’s goals saw Argentina advance from the group stage. His playmaking ability led them to the final and could have won them the trophy, with several goal-scoring chances all missed.
Argentina has a squad that can make it far in this World Cup. However, if the other 10 players on the field don’t alleviate some of the weight on Messi’s shoulders, they can kiss this trophy goodbye as well.
Messi’s Last Chance at World Cup Glory
For any soccer fan, the fact that Lionel Messi is 30 – and will turn 31 in Russia next summer – is a sad fact. While he is not getting any younger, he is performance level is also not decreasing. In fact, Messi is still breaking records.
This season he has enjoyed the best start to a La Liga campaign in his career. In 10 games, he has scored 12 goals, leading FC Barcelona to tie their best ever start to a league campaign, and are 8 points clear of rivals Real Madrid.
Luckily for Argentina, his form has transferred over, as demonstrated in his World Cup qualifying heroics. In Messi, we witnessed a player on a mission, determined to win that trophy next summer. But, the rest of the Argentina squad has to match their club-form as well.
We won't have to endure a World Cup without Messi.
Because of Messi. pic.twitter.com/gdYww2tFH6
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) October 11, 2017
Teammates and strikers Sergio Aguero, Paulo Dybala and Mauro Icardi have enjoyed blistering starts to their league campaigns with Manchester City, Juventus, and Inter Milan respectively. Throughout qualifying, Argentina’s defense looked solid, with their weakness coming in creating chances and scoring goals. Like Messi, Aguero, Dybala, and Icardi need to transfer their form for any World Cup hopes.
As coach Jorge Sampaoli said, Lionel Messi is owed a World Cup, but the ones who owe him that are his Argentine teammates.
Argentina takes on Russia and Nigeria during the November international break in 2 weeks. These friendlies are tune-ups for the World Cup this summer.
On December 1st, after the 32 qualified teams are known, the World Cup group draw will take place, sealing Argentina’s first three matches this summer. Argentina ranked 4th in the world by FIFA, will be in Pot 1 and the head of their group.
The World Cup is set to begin June 14. Messi and company look to better last tournament’s success and win the trophy this time. A World Cup would undoubtedly hold Messi in the conversation for best soccer player ever. Considering the magic he brings to the game, Argentina owes it to Messi to carry their own weight and help him lift the one trophy missing from his illustrious career.