Victor R. Caivano/Associated Press
Lionel Messi made the final, but he couldn't get his side over the line.
He never really hit his true heights at the World Cup, but still found moments to drag goals and assists out of himself—but, at the final, he was only intermittently involved, went missing for too long in the second half and spurned one of the best chances of the game as he screwed a shot wide on his left foot.
If he was merely waiting for the moment of ultimate impact, a 120th-minute free kick would have been exactly that—but Messi blazed the set piece miles over the bar.
Still only 27, Messi likely will have another chance to win a World Cup. But the sense remains that Sunday was his big chance to match his countryman Diego Maradona, who led Argentina to their second title in 1986.
Of course, Messi is already regarded as perhaps the best player of his generation. Whether or not he wins the World Cup, his status as one of the all-time greats is already secure.
Writing for the Daily Mail on Messi's big chance, Ian Ladyman noted:
His place in the pantheon remains, of course. He doesn’t need a World Cup winner’s medal for that and it should be remembered that this is some way from a great Argentina team.
Victory here would have put him in the elite company of his some of his heroes, though. His chance may not come again.
Greatest current player or not, Messi hasn't been able to add a World Cup to his list of achievements to rank him along with the likes of Diego Maradona.