Never before has a football match been so focused on one man, but the 2014 World Cup final saw all eyes turn Lionel Messi’s way.
Talk of Messi not being considered one of football’s greatest without a World Cup win has been circulating throughout the tournament, so, naturally, the 27-year-old went out with a point to prove.
However, it wasn't to be, as Messi had a night to forget at the Maracana, going missing on the biggest stage of them all as Germany toppled Argentina 1-0 in extra time.
Germany’s stubborn defensive line kept him quiet for the duration of the match, but there was always the “I’m still here” warning from the Barcelona man in the first half. His burst past Mats Hummels demonstrated his ambitions, as Squawka Football revealed:
Hummels is far from a slow defender, but Messi had him looking like he was running in treacle, as Gary Lineker remarked upon:
Hummels appears to be carrying a piano on his back.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) July 13, 2014
Such moments of quality weren’t frequent enough from an Argentina point of view, though, and ESPN’s Paul Carr revealed just how little an impact he had on proceedings in the opening 45 minutes:
Lionel Messi's 16 first-half touches are his fewest in any full half he's played in this World Cup. #ARG— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) July 13, 2014
Many neutrals were praying for Messi to light up the final in the second half, including actor Greg McHugh:
I think Lionel Messi should score a goal in the second half. #ARGvsGER— greg mchugh (@gregjmchugh) July 13, 2014
With a matter of minutes on the clock in the second period, he had the chance to do just that.
Through on goal with just goalkeeper Manuel Neuer to beat, we were all just waiting for the net to bulge, but Messi put it agonisingly wide, as Bleacher Report revealed:
That’s as good as it got for the Barcelona man in regulation time. A few snapshots aside, Messi was non-existent in the second period, and OptaJohan’s statistics showed that his recent form has noticeably dipped:
8 - Lionel Messi has failed to score with his last eight shots in this World Cup, scoring three with his previous eight. Unusual.— OptaJohan (@OptaJohan) July 13, 2014
Heading into extra time at 0-0, the match was crying out for a moment of Messi magic, but it never came, as Germany’s defenders handled everything that he was throwing at them.
Journalist Steve Smith was among many who noted Messi’s lack of impact in the match, hailing Joachim Low’s tactics as the reason why:
Loew has clearly been given Bayern Munich's How To Keep Messi Quiet play book— Steve Smith (@SteveSmithZA) July 13, 2014
As the match came ticking down to its final minutes of extra time, Germany’s Mario Goetze showed Messi how it’s done, with a phenomenal finish to hand the Germans their fourth World Cup.
The Barcelona man did have a chance to silence his critics with a dangerous free-kick late in the game, but he blazed it over hideously—summing up his night, according to broadcaster Ian Abrahams:
That free kick sums up Messi's night, not good enough— Ian Abrahams (Moose) (@BroadcastMoose) July 13, 2014
Had Messi been at his best in Rio de Janeiro, it may well have been a different story, but the moment well and truly belongs to the Germans.
The critics will once again be out in force, and arguably the best player ever to play the game will have to wait until 2018 for his chance to truly confirm his legendary status.