The world was shook upon knowing that the best football player in the world, Lionel Messi, once again failed in bringing Argentina the title. However, this time, things got much worse as the Argentinians were eliminated early on.
The group stags was a no-brainer for the superpowers. Everyone knew that Argentina, along with Portugal, Germany, Spain, and Brazil will survive it smoothly. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened with Argentina and Portugal.
Facing early elimination dealt a negative blow to these teams. It just showed that anything could happen. Jorge Sampaoli, manager of the La Albiceleste, said in an interview that he was unable to fully utilize Messi’s footballing prowess as France defeated them in the Round of 16 last Saturday.
Almost everyone knew that Argentina would survive this debacle as the team is jampacked with superstars. Lionel Messi, Paulo Dybala, and Angel di Maria are among the big names to grace Moscow for Argentina's hopeful World Cup campaign.
Unfortunately, these stars, along with a handful of others didn’t shine. Why? Well, that’s due to a number of reasons.
First off, Sampaoli’s constant changing of lineups messed up their consistency in the field. Some say that this is a useful strategy as it makes them unpredictable. However, that’s not what happened as the players seemed to be confused on their roles.
And based on what Sampaoli said, it's clear that he sees the constantly changing lineup was necessary to dominate, as having a clear game plan makes them susceptible to counter-attack threats.
The Argentinian added that winning was their main goal and following that strategy was needed. He also continued saying that they had the best player in the world which makes it easier for them to implement sudden changes in situations.
Sampaoli continued defending his coaching approach as he said that he tried to implement different tactics for the team. He also strongly denied that their World Cup campaign was a failure because their training sessions were on point and productive.
However, Sampaoli later said that the reason he believes that may have caused their defeat was due to their lack of teamwork. He specifically mentioned their lack of time working together to be one of the causes of their lack of composure during their game against France.
The Argentina manager added that it’s easy to analyze the team’s moves and performance on a piece of paper, but it’s difficult to apply all of them once the players play in the field.
He even said that they already planned and analyzed every possible situation. Unfortunately, those plans weren’t applied when the players went head-on against the French. Furthermore, the disappointed coach refused to talk about anything which relates to his future with the team.
Low said that he doesn’t need and want to decide as of now. But interestingly, Sampaoli hinted that his time as coach for Argentina might be through when he thanked all the players that played under him.
In his own words, Sampaoli said that he is happy that he managed the team even if they failed at their goal in this World Cup.
Meanwhile, the French knew what to expect, and that Messi would carry most of Argentina’s load. So what better way than to prepare a specialized strategy that will keep the superstar out of bay. Well, that's just what they did as they made sure that Messi can't go all-out during their head-on collision with the French.
Didier Deschamps, manager of the French team, said in an interview that their plan was to make sure that Messi won’t receive any passes. And it turned out just as planned as the forward had a hard time receiving long shots from his fellow midfield teammates.
Deschamps continued and said that if ever Messi gets the ball, their plan was to let an agile forward come after him and mess up his gameplay.
Perhaps, another reason why Argentina was dominated by the French force was because of their average age. France had a much younger team, hence their superior agility and vigor. Though they might lack the needed experience, their energetic charisma managed to pull everything off with style.
Thus, the game ended 4-3 in favor of the French.
Messi and his international career
Messi had a hard time contemplating on his international career when they were denied by Germany of the title in the 2014 World Cup. He was deeply dismayed and even decided to retire from international play.
Good thing he changed his mind and played again for his country. However, the same thing happened, but this time, things got much worse, as the title-contending team got eliminated in the Round of 16.
They’re demoralized, so to speak. He might have made two assists which led to a smooth Jun Aguero goal, but that wasn’t enough. Much is needed of him if he wants to make it big in the global football arena.
Future looks bleak
Messi is not getting any younger. He’ll be 34-years-old once the 2022 World Cup kicks off. That's not a good thing if you want to lead your team to greatness. So far, only three players that are above that age started in the World Cup final and had won.
That’s Nilton Santos during the 1962 World Cup, Dino Zoff in 1982, and then Miroslav Klose in the Rio 2014 World Cup.
It was done before, but that doesn’t mean that Messi is assured of the same thing next time around. Nonetheless, he’s Lionel Messi, the man who won five Ballon d'Or awards, four Champions Leagues, and scored 552 goals for Barca.
However, it’s worth noting that the three players mentioned have a different situation with Messi. First off, Zoff was a goalkeeper, which is pretty much a very different position from Messi’s forward role. Nilton Santos was also a veteran playing for a star-studded Brazilian team.
Argentina got a lot of great players, but they’re not really superstars. Messi is the only superstar in the team. That’s way different from Zoff who had Zito, Garrincha, Didi, and Djalma Santos in the field. Klose also had a better supporting cast than what Messi might have in 2022.
And what’s more important is that these men weren’t the key players of their countries. They were great players, no doubt about that, but they’re not in the same level as Messi who’s regarded as the hero of the Argentine national team.
He’s highly depended upon by many people to carry his country to glory. That might be a good thing in the short run, but in the long run, not likely. Messi’s age will surely slow him down. And when that happens, it’s very possible for Argentina to have a worse time in the World Cup.
But it's worth noting that there are other players who seem not to mind their ages at all. Take for example Cristiano Ronaldo who's already 33-years-old, but can still go head-to-head with the younger and agiler players. But then again, he's different from Messi.
This means that Messi won't be on the same level as Diego Maradona and Pele because of the fact that his chance of winning the World Cup is low. Cristiano Ronaldo might also suffer the same fate as there's no way for him to win the global title.
He's in a different situation, though, as he plays for Portugal which in the first place, isn't a superpower, unlike Argentina or Brazil. He might have led Portugal to Euro domination, but for the world? Nah, it's unlikely.
Then comes the GOAT debate. Will Messi be the Greatest of All Time? Well, there’s no answer to that. But one thing’s for sure, and that his performance in the World Cup wouldn’t and shouldn’t matter in this whole GOAT issue.
This is because of the fact that a single individual cannot control everything. Take for example Zinedine Zidane who won the 1998 World Cup because his teammates defeated Paraguay while he was on the bench.
Then he lost the 2006 World Cup final because unfortunately, he was on the bench and Italy one with the help of a series of penalty kicks. Messi’s disappointing campaign against Germany in Brazil was the cause of different factors, most of them being outside of his control.
Football is a team sport. It's not all about one player, but it's about how the team players together. Collective achievements are the name of the game when it comes to playing football, and with this, it's important for everyone to know that Messi needs a stronger team for him to help bring Argentina to world domination.
How far Messi has come is something that he may have been thinking about the road home. Way back 12 years ago, he only had 11 league starts, and three appearances all in all, twice being a sub and managing to score a goal.
The spot-kick spelled his fate going home, with the recent injury of Roberto Abbondanziery in the goal, and the decision of Jose Pekerman to let Julio Cruz take a spot which could have been Messi’s, as well as the opportunity to play in the quarterfinal round versus Germany.
It’s not at all smart at this point to have doubts regarding how much Messi loves his county, especially when he played amidst injuries, as well as which retiring for a while as a form of protest against what happened at the Argentina FA fiasco during the Copa America.
Yes, this too adds great detail to his storyline of his stint in football.
It all boils down to matters being easier whenever you're in a framework that's organized and resourced. It's more than just receiving plans from Pep Guardiola instead of Maradona, or you have Ivan Rakitik as the center midfielder instead of a Lucas Biglia, or at least, being forced to have him.
It really has a lot to do with the organizational framework, as well as the resources and connections that the team has.
Being unstable isn't something we're not familiar associating Messi with, and that's a fact. Looking back at his performance history, his worst one was the second leg of the Roma Match in April, where a 4-1 first leg was obtained by Barcelona which ultimately led to a 3-0 loss, all of this happening before the match with Croatia.
Despite this being his perceived worst, others find ground in blaming the manager, or probably commend the opposing team for upping their standards, or after it all, just embrace how unpredictable the sport can be.
It’s just really absurd to deny that Messi has had a performance that’s absent, woeful, and listless. Some enthusiasts and analysts say that bad games really do happen and that he really is entitled to an “off” game.
With age, however, comes higher risks of Novgorod and Rome-esque events from taking place more frequently. Time doesn’t adjust for anyone; it remains undefeated, as Rocky Balboa said. At the very least however, it can be slowed.
One of the things he can do though is to get back at it again in 2022. This is best for those who judge him solely by what he won in July, or those who just want to see him keep on playing, rather than those who get to see the bigger picture, which his over-all career in the world of football.
A manager for Argentina on the rise?
Sampaoli is bound to decide either on Wednesday or the day after it about his stint as the coach for the Argentina team after meeting with Claudio Tapia, the AFA Chief. Other reports have surfaced, however, saying that neither side has decided to take action, with Sampaoli not yet formally resigning, nor the AFA asking him to do so.
Furthermore, Tapia has told Sampaoli that if support is still going to come from him, he believes that they would do well in next year’s Argentina and Copa America glory match. Despite this statement from him, the odds are still not with Sampaoli, as most of the fans of the Argentina team are rallying against him, not for him.
Furthermore, he doesn’t even have a dressing room section anymore.
Because of this, ESPN reports that the two have agreed that it’s time for a new coach to lead the pack, leaving the former coach of Sevilla doing other things. Thankfully, Argentina managed to succeed in the World Cup group stages, all thanks to a winner versus Nigeria late in the last game.
Despite this victory, they were defeated to a score of 4-3 against France last weekend, exiting the competition at the final 16 phase.
World Cup departure
It’s been more than 20 years since the Argentina team managed to bag an international title, with the last one being in 1993’s Copa America. The closest they got was in 2014, during the World Cup, only to lose during the final battle.
They also came close to getting major titles during the Copas America in 2015 and the year after. A lot of factors can be attributed to Argentina’s poor performance.
A combination of talent, youth, and proper pacing was the secret behind France successfully eliminating the Argentina team in a 4-3 reverse game, which would inevitably cause some guard changing.
Most of the Argentines who were in the match were all in their 30s, with the players being Gonzalo Higuain, Ever Banega, Gabriel Mercado, Angel Di Maria, Enzo Perez, Sergio Aguero, Javier Mascherano, Nicolas Otamendi, and of course, Messi.
Javier has announced that he would be retiring after the game, which leaves a lot of people asking and questioning the desire of the teammates to carry on with the flights across the Atlantic, as well as to give in to the pressure of the fans from their very own hometown.
It remains to be seen on whether or not a huge impact is to be made by Mascherano on this decision he is about to make.
Looking at the current situation, however, it seems like leaving the team is going to be a better decision. This is because the Argentines have not been primed and billed to be contenders, performance-wise.
While they were able to do well with a draw of 1-1 versus Iceland for their opening match, they were swamped by Croatia in the succeeding battle with a 3-0 result. A late winner was ultimately required to get a spot into the top 16, which is made possible through the efforts of Marcos Rojo as a late winner.
Despite this, Messi was really able to deliver during the time he really had to, especially in the win against Nigeria. He did, however, look discouraged and depressed during the battle versus France, as he couldn’t seem to make it past Croatia and Iceland’s defenses.
Him not being able to contribute to scores during the knock-out rounds of the World Cup can say a lot about his performance. Looking at the bigger picture of things, however, Sampaoli can be said to be a successful coach, especially given that he has helped the team win during the Copa America versus Chile, three years back, and he has promised to keep on leading the pack.
While he may be aware of his age, the future, he believes, is still bright as it is handled by the best people. He is convinced that more great players will be coming from the team.
He further adds that they would have to be backed up to return to being at the top of the game again like they did in their heydays.
Subscribe to Sport.ONE
Get the latest posts delivered right to your inbox