Argentina and Lionel Messi are just two wins away from winning the FIFA World cup 2022. Messi’s penultimate dream and target to become a World champion is getting closer as La Albiceleste take on Croatia tonight for the first Semi-final of this year’s edition at Qatar.
In an overall extremely successful career, the World cup title is the only thing that Messi is missing. We all know how many years do players take to win the Ballon D’or and Karim Benzema is an apt example for that. But for Messi, it took him 13 years to win record 7 Ballon D’or awards – most by any footballer ever.
Alongside, the Ballon D’or, the Talismanic number 10 has 4 UEFA Champions League as well as several domestic silverwares. But one day if you are to ask Messi that what is more important, the World cup or the Ballon D’or, he would be saying it with a smile that World cup is above all of individual laurels.
The time has arrived for Messi to win what he deserves. As many people say “Football owes Messi a World cup title” and in that course his team has already cleared several tests and now it is time to beat 2018 runners-up Croatia in a bid to win the title which they last won in 1986.
8 years ago at Brazil, Lionel Messi and Co. reached very close but eventually lost against Germany. At that time all the eyes as well as responsibilities were on Messi. It is still now but the responsibility to some extent has lowered.
The current Argentinian side somewhat smells like the team that won the 1986 World cup. How?
If we rewind back to 1986, Diego Maradona did not won the prestigious World championship alongside very famous (Daniel Pasarella and Mario Kempes) names in the country but with those who were more functional and technically compact as compared to the ones who were there in the team 4 years ago.
Maradona won it alongside players who were willing to put the work in and help the man in tough situations. Even then, Argentina applied the 3-5-2 formation which Lionel Scaloni has also applied with his current team. The team in 1986 was based on a solid architecture and foundation which had Maradona as they key to success.
They did not over rely on Maradona to score but the players around him always looked for ways ease the pressure on him and show character. Its the same thing that Lionel Messi has now. The team in 1986 was very organized, tactically structured and had precise obligations.
They were happy to have an influence like Maradona but one player cannot change the composition of the game. The players were quick to recognize that and it was the collective effort that worked for them. The team had the hunger and passion to deliver the result that the entire country was rooting for.
The late Diego Maradona scored 5 goals in that tournament – 1 in the Group stages, 2 in the Quarter-final against England and 2 in the Semi-final against Belgium. In the Quarter final, Maradona single handedly defeated England by scoring a controversial goal or as we know “the hand of god” followed by a sensational goal which saw Maradona run alongside English defenders from his own half to the other with the ball at his feet.
He not only tricked the defenders on the way but also fooled the goalkeeper to give Argentina a 2-0 lead. As they say it was Maradona who defeated England and Belgium but he needed the whole team when it was time for final against West Germany.
Maradona did not score in the final because the Germans had marked him tightly but his precise vision found the best route for attack in the build up to Argentina’s 3rd goal in the final against the Germans. The group of players around Maradona was what helped the nation win their 2nd World title.
Coming back to the current Argentina team, the group of players around Messi are somehow similar to what Maradona had in 1986. There is a special bond between Messi and the rest of the 10 players in the team. Those 10 men will perhaps do everything required to help the iconic number 10. In some ways Messi’s dream is theirs also.
We all know of the enigma Messi brings. His proficiency with the ball and the skills he possesses is second to none. But for a fact the 35-year-old is not the same in terms of pace, thus he needs runners and high work rate players around him and the current group has it.
Although Messi has played in better sides than this with both club and country. He has played alongside Hernan Crespo, Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez, Juan Sebastian Veron and Gonzalo Higuain too but can he win the world cup with this Argentine team? Yes he can.
Argentina surely do not need 11 Messis, they just need 1. Around that one, they need 10 hard working players who can die for him on the pitch and play smarter than the opposition. Messi is of course the center of everything and this is what Argentina have what other teams don’t. That is why MESSI IS MARADONA for 1986.
Back in 2018, there was Sergio Aguero who has now been replaced by Julian Alvarez, someone who runs very fast and is a natural fir for the team as compared to the Man city legend. Argentina also had a fine play maker in the form of Ever Banega but he could never cover as much ground as Rodrigo De Paul does now.
One mistake that Argentina did in these years was that they did not have a solid group, something that Lionel Scaloni has worked upon and has been reasonably successful. Messi was not even a part of the squad in Sacloni’s early days and he thinks it has worked for them.
Tactics are an important facet of the game and Scaloni has made the team adapt to his style and vision really very well. Former German World cup winner Phillip Lahm has also nodded the changes and differences in the Argentina team that played in 2014 WC final and the team that is playing now.
Lahm has noted the equal division of labour and understands that the team is not heavily dependent up on Messi to solve every problem. This is indeed a positive. Scaloni’s tactics and leadership. Argentina’s will and determination. And Lionel Messi’s magic, will it be enough for Argentina to repeat the triumph they achieved in 1986?
And will the GOAT debate end between Ronaldo and Messi if the latter wins the world cup?