By Shebby Singh | WORLD CUP 2018 #3
It is late late into the game, maybe too late but Lionel Messi receives the ball in midfield, looks up and sees a thing of beauty. Something that the French, in particular Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe, do rather well. Run. There was a diagonal run made into the box!
This Argentine team from the first match has always endured to get the ball to Messi. Give Messi the ball. Find him.
Then stop and watch!
Finally, it was Sergio Aguero who made the run and Messi ever so gracefully laid the ball on his head for Argentina’s third goal. This Argentina team stops moving after giving the ball to Messi.
Movement and off the ball running stops and Leo Messi comes to a stand still.
If anyone had been watching Barcelona this past season would know Messi had a great season simply because of the movement and mobility of players around him. He is a pass master but you can only pass to a teammate who is aggressively active.
On the subject of movement, Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez ran the Portuguese ragged. These two Uruguayans run and never stop running in retrieving lost causes. They make a clearance look like a defense splitting pass!
The great Diego Maradona will attest that Jorge Burruchaga and Jorge Valdano ran for him in 1986.
Maybe, just maybe, Messi brought his friends to the World Cup. Good friends, Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero and Angel di Maria but only Javier Mascherano was willing to die for Messi and Argentina.
There was no Mauro Icardi and Paulo Dybala was an after thought with Lucas Alario sitting twiddling his thumbs in Leverkusen while Giovanni Lo Celso never had to reach for his shin pads. Did Jorge Sampaoli even watch Giovanni Simeone at Fiorentina?
Quite simply, too, Argentina has not had a midfield passer of the ball like Juan Roman Requilme but now Leo Messi can fill that role. It’s time to be the cog in a wheel after being the wheel itself for so long.
The Brazilians hosted the 2014 World Cup with Neymar, Hulk, Fred and Jo being the attackers. Four years on, in Russia only Neymar remains. The Argentinians had Messi, Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero and Angel di Maria in 2014. Only Ezequiel Lavezzi did not make it to Russia.
Today in Russia, Neymar has Gabriel Jesus, Roberto Firmino, Willian and Phillip Coutinho to draw attention and opponents away from him. Meanwhile, Lionel Messi’s burden just became too heavy to carry.
While Joachim Loew’s Germany never displayed the virtues of the Bundesliga, it’s Jorge Sampaoli who never learnt lessons from the qualifiers when Argentina just scraped through. All the signs of weaknesses were there staring in the face but Sampaoli chose to hide behind Messi.
[Serbegeth Singh is a former Malaysian international footballer and current football analyst. For the duration of the World Cup 2018, he will share his thoughts at Asia Samachar on Mondays, looking back at the action in Russia over the week]
* This is the opinion of the writer, organisation or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.
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