IN team sport, one may be a difference maker but he can never be the sole reason why a team succeeds. As they say there is no I in TEAM.
Lionel Messi tried winning the World Cup five times. He first appeared in the biggest sports event in the world in 2006. He just recently overtook German player Lothar Mattheus’ record for the most games played in the world cup at 26.
There is no disputing his unworldly talents but there seems to be something missing in the Argentine team set up that made it harder to get over the hump.
Argentina produced some of the best players in the world. Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Javier Mascherano, Carlos Teves, Maxi Rodriguez, Diego Milito who were all so prolific in their respective professional clubs. All of these players had the chance to win back the title the Albicelestes last won in 1986 when the great Maradona was still playing, with Messi.
Their best chance was in 2014 when they reached the final against Germany. They lost that game in the most heartbreaking fashion. They were heading to extra time when Germany scored a goal at the death.
It became desperate for Messi because since he played for the national team, he hasn’t won a single major trophy. He even received unfair criticism about his not being Argentinian enough since he grew up and trained for the sport in Spain.
The turning point was when Messi namesake Lionel Scaloni took over as coach in 2018. Even though it took some time before Messi warmed to the idea of him as the best choice.
He was supposed to be there in the interim but he soon rewarded the trust by winning very important games. One of his accomplishments that probably drew Messi’s trust is when he led Argentina to win the Copa America, their first ever title after 28 years.
The next superstar
Julian Alvarez was 10 years old when he met Messi. His dream was to play in the World Cup. That came true and more when he ended up playing alongside his idol Messi. He came in the tournament as a young promising talent from Manchester City.
Pep Guardiola, coach of Manchester City and one of the best in the world, told his players participating in the World Cup that Alvarado was going to be in the final. As foretold by the Guardiola, Alvarado not only took part in the final, he was a difference maker helping Messi reach it. He scored twice in the semi-final against Croatia.
The young player of the tournament
Enzo Fernandez played every minute of the World Cup final. He scored a crucial golazo goal versus Mexico in the group stages as Argentina was still reeling from a shocking defeat against Saudi Arabia. The Benfica man is an important cog in the midfield engine room. Tireless all tournament long.
If you have bad eyes, you’d probably think it was Messi playing. Alexis Mac Allister’s dribbling ability was spectacular. Brave on the ball and tireless in recovering it. His assist to Di Maria for the second goal came from the best counter attack seen in a World Cup. Brighton fans from England should be excited about this lad, otherwise be afraid of the big clubs lurking after his performance.
Cristian Romero has caught the eye ever since he came to the Tottenham Hotspurs, a top club in the English Premier League. He has no fear facing the top players in the world. He is a fierce defender and is one of the main reasons why Argentina is solid in defense. Played 120 minutes in the final and had 9 clearances, more than the entire French team combined.
Eli Martinez seems like the most annoying, cocky and crass player in the team. His victory dance after blocking two shots during the penalty shootout and his best goalie trophy pose might raise some eyebrows and elicit a few chuckles but he saved Argentina from a heartbreak loss by using his cat like reflexes to block a goal bound shot from french forward Randal Kolo Muani. He literally saved Argentina twice to win the World Cup.
He is one of the most dangerous forwards in world football. Angel Di Maria showed his class in the first half against the beleaguered French defense. Earned a penalty albeit questionable. Scored in the counter for the second goal that kept Argentina comfortable until the French comeback which happened when he was substituted.
Argentina got their 3rd star as the newly crowned champions of the 2022 World Cup. Messi is the GOAT but couldn’t have done it without his FRIENDS.