With a grim look upon his face, Lionel Messi accepted his Golden Ball award following his side's 1-0 World Cup final defeat at the hands of Germany. The Argentine looked upon a sea of his country's supporters.
There were grown men weeping for the missed opportunity that may never come again in their lifetimes.
With the repetitious, tiresome comparisons to Diego Maradona looming, Messi, unable to produce for his country when it mattered most, gazed into the night emotionless.
There were a few takeaways I had after watching Messi's performance.
Messi was awarded the Golden Ball, being recognized as the best player of the tournament. The captain had the opportunity to silence his critics with a victory, or, at the least, a strong showing. Instead, he struggled the majority of the game and joined some undesirable company, according to ESPN's Paul Carr:
Lionel Messi is the 5th straight Golden Ball winner who did NOT win the World Cup.— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) July 13, 2014
Understandably, Messi did not seem the least bit excited about this, KickTV notes:
As you can see in the clips above, Messi had a few moments to capitalize. He may have been exhausted. He may have folded under the enormous pressure. I believe a combination of both are in play here.
Oh my goodness, Messi usually buries that one with his left on the run like that.— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) July 13, 2014
Messi missing shots he easily buries at the club level will undoubtedly produce more groans from the Argentinian faithful. As Grant Wahl notes, it was not due to a lack of chances that Messi was unable to produce. Rather, it was his inability to finish plays that are elementary for a player of his caliber.
The recurring theme throughout Messi's successful career has always been, and will always be, his inability to top, let alone match, the national success produced by Maradona. Maradona's 1986 World Cup victory for Argentina remains the last time the country has tasted victory in the tournament.
The New York Times' table above illustrates the tale of the uphill battle for Messi. The stats compare Maradona's 1986 tournament to Messi's current run. Maradona trumps him in assisting his teammates, but that could also further the argument that Messi had minimal help throughout the tournament.
Maradona's 1986 World Cup campaign will forever cloud the achievements of Messi. Until he wins Argentina another World Cup trophy—and even that won't be enough for some—he will never be revered in his home country like Maradona.