There’s no doubt: Messi could lead Argentina to World Cup glory

Despite a remarkable undefeated streak and winning the Copa América, there were doubts about the strength of Lionel Scaloni’s team – but no more

Argentinian fans with long-term memories would probably prefer expectations for the World Cup to be lower, but the players, on Wednesday, against Italy, left a message about what they intend to do.

Indeed, the message was heard loud and clear by all present: Argentina are a serious contender at Qatar 2022. It was impossible to draw any other conclusion from a 3-0 victory over Italy with Lionel Messi and his teammates. giving the European champions a painful 90-minute beating.

The crowd at Wembley was mostly Argentine, and the cheers that lasted throughout the game pushed the team to a new national record of 32 unbeaten games.

And once the Finalissima trophy was handed over, the players themselves joined in the festivities, lifting the captain over their shoulders as the promise extended: “And by the hand of Lionel Messi, we will all make the return of honour.”

But some caveats must be made of unbridled optimism, of course.

Italy, for example, is a shadow of the team that beat England to win the Euro 2020 title last year. Ineffective at advancing and always vulnerable to Argentina’s fast and accurate attacks, with players like Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini finally starting to show their age. There really wasn’t much to get excited about from the Azzurri’s perspective.

Still, despite failing to make it to the World Cup, Roberto Mancini’s men remain a top-notch European team: exactly the kind of team that could pull La Albiceleste out of their encouraging undefeated streak with the Cup title. America and easy classification to the World Cup.

It had been three years since the South Americans had faced opponents on the opposite side of the Atlantic Ocean, leaving an asterisk against their historic winning streak. Now, however, there’s no room for doubt: Argentina are a top-notch team, more than capable of reaching heights in Qatar.

Furthermore, despite his advanced age and his mediocre season at the club, his captain remains a formidable opponent for any defense and he has a fine group of players who firmly support him. As Emiliano Martinez said: “We are all lions who fight for him”.

It’s easy to understand why. Messi is not just leading by example on the field; he’s talking like a true captain.

“We don’t care who we have in front of us,” he replied when asked if Argentina needed more playing time against European opponents. “We know exactly who we are. We play every game the same way, but it was a good test because Italy are a great team.”

“We’re going to keep growing, that’s what we’re trying to do. We look at it day after day, to keep improving and we’ll keep saying we’re not the top favorites. [para a Copa do Mundo]”.

Three weeks after his 35th birthday, the captain has shown exactly why 2022 could end in triumph.

As at PSG, Messi has adopted a less advanced and demanding role in his selection, a role that favors creative intelligence and subtlety over his old explosive glow around the box.

He may not have been appreciated by Parc des Princes fans throughout the season after the club’s astronomical investment. But for his lovely Argentinian fans, and finally surrounded by a team willing to play for themselves instead of relying on the number 10 for a moment of magic, it’s exactly what they need to transform from a decent team to a possible winner. of the title.

So, although Messi didn’t let his goal against Italy, the ace provided two assists, slipping a perfectly weighted low pass finished by Lautaro Martinez to open the scoring, before sending a ball just right for Paulo Dybala to close the scoring.

But Argentina’s dominance could also be felt on the other side of the field. Emiliano Martínez barely bothered in goal, behind an increasingly authoritative backline and Rodrigo De Paul once again dominating midfield to ensure Leandro Paredes’ absence was barely noticed.

The Albiceleste are historically wary of favorite etiquette.

In 1958, after one of the biggest performances ever at the Copa América, the team was devastated when the likes of Omar Sivori, Antonio Angelillo and Humberto Maschio left for Italy and, after a 6-1 defeat to Sweden, were eliminated and received by around 10,000 fans throwing coins at them on arrival in Argentina.

Fast forward to 2002, Marcelo Bielsa’s Argentina were again heavily favored after making it through the standings with a record campaign only to be eliminated in the first round for the first time since 1962.

In contrast, when Diego Maradona and his team arrived in Mexico in 1986, fans were almost indifferent to the team, as even president Raul Alfonsin pushed for coach Carlos Bilardo to be fired from the struggling team.

Diego and the coach then went on to make history.

Fortunately for Lionel Scaloni’s men, outside Argentina they have now managed to fly a little under the radar, with even Messi’s PSG teammate Kylian Mbappe diminishing his and Brazil’s chances of taking the World Cup title. back to South America.

But if they keep playing like they did at Wembley, many more people will sit back and take notice of a team that not only plays brilliant football at its best, but whose players seem to have fun pulling on the jersey and sticking together.

That’s a virtue, and while it may not be enough on its own to guarantee further success, their talent and their unity mean Argentina has to be in the discussion when it comes to naming potential winners in Qatar.

There’s no hiding it now: Messi and company are serious contenders for the World Cup.

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About Banner Leon

Videogames entered his life in the late '80s, at the time of the first meeting with Super Mario Bros, and even today they make it a permanent part, after almost 30 years. Pros and defects: he manages to finish Super Mario Bros in less than 5 minutes but he has never finished Final Fight with a credit ... he's still trying.

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