Lionel Messi Will Bounce Back Strong After Rare Lackluster Showing vs. Bolivia

Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistMarch 27, 2013

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN - FEBRUARY 06:  Lionel Messi of Argentina in action during the International Friendly match between Sweden and Argentina at the Friends Arena on February 6, 2013 in Stockholm, Sweden.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

In the future, when sports historians look back on the illustrious career of Lionel Messi, it's safe to say Tuesday's World Cup qualifier against Bolivia will get bypassed. That is unless they are looking for a rare example of him playing like a mere mortal.

Messi and his Argentina teammates struggled with the high altitude of Estadio Hernando Siles, which is nearly 12,000 feet above sea level. They were still able to earn a point courtesy of an Ever Banega equalizer shortly before halftime, but it was hardly a picturesque performance.

A lot of that goes back to Messi, who's the driving force behind the Albiceleste attack just like he is at Barcelona. Even though he helped jump-start the rush that led to Banega's goal, it wasn't the usual unstoppable version of Messi that fans have come to expect.

He missed a scoring chance late that would have allowed Argentina to escape Bolivia with three points and didn't generate nearly as much pressure on the Verde back line as he normally would.

The conditions seemingly played a role in his lackluster match. He got sick on the pitch, according to The Telegraph, while his teammates like Angel di Maria needed supplemental oxygen to help deal with the altitude.

The good news for Argentina is the draw keeps it four points clear of Ecuador, which holds a match in hand, in South American qualifying. It can also rest easy knowing Messi will almost certainly be in better form in the remaining qualifiers later in the year.

Above all else, Messi is a gamer. His desire to win is what drives him to heights unmatched by any other player in the world. A showing like the one he had on Tuesday will only add more fuel to his fire as he heads back to Barca.

He's reached a point few athletes do during their career. That being it's actually a bigger story when he has an off game than when he scores a hat trick or nets a highlight-reel goal. Those things are basically expected from him at this point, as crazy as it sounds.

Even when he does have one of those forgettable performances, he always bounces back. That consistency is why he already owns so many trophies, both team and individual, at the age of 25.

In other words, Barcelona fans have nothing to worry about as the club prepares for a high-profile Champions League encounter with Paris Saint-Germain.

Anything less than a vintage Messi outing next week would be a surprise.