Lionel Messi's legacy as one of the all-time greatest players in world football has been heavily debated since the conclusion of the 2014 World Cup. Despite Argentina's 1-0 loss to Germany, this result should not affect Messi's standing.
According to FIFA.com, Argentina recorded just two shots on target compared to Germany's seven. Both sides had 10 attempts in total on the night, with Messi bagging four of those, per Whoscored.com. One of these attempts was a clear-cut chance at the beginning of the second half. Some have pointed out that it was a wasted opportunity for the 27-year-old.
However, Gonzalo Higuain missed on a much better opportunity in the first half. He was able to skin past Germany defender Mats Hummels and faced goalkeeper Manuel Neuer all alone. Just minutes later, Higuain appeared to have scored, but it was called back by an offside.
Ezequiel Lavezzi provided the assist, thanks to Messi opening up space on the left before completing a cross-field ball to his teammate.
Messi was noticeably quiet in the match, but so was every other Argentinean player. The team completed nearly half as many passes as Germany but had just five deliveries into the opposing penalty area, per FIFA.com. By comparison, the Germans had 12.
Manager Alejandro Sabella had Angel Di Maria available on the bench, but due to his injury, the Real Madrid midfielder wasn't in top form to play. In addition, Sergio Aguero had been battling fitness issues and was subbed in to replace Lavezzi, who had to be taken off due to fatigue.
It is evident that Messi didn't have the right personnel playing beside him. Higuain was his only healthy strike partner whom he was familiar with due to previous matches. This is the reason that Sabella had his team sit back and absorb the pressure. Germany had the advantage in almost every area of the pitch, except for the defense, and even that is arguable.
During the group stage, Argentina had a tournament-high 65 percent possession per match, per Whoscored.com, against teams such as Nigeria, Iran and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Including the knockout stage, Argentina's average possession dropped to 57 percent, per Whoscored.com, which is the largest drop from the group phase than any other team.
Messi's supporting cast simply do not play at his high level, and the necessary change in Sabella’s tactics led to a drop in the 27-year-old's performances.
Diego Maradona won a World Cup in 1986, thanks to some terrific performances leading up to the final. What's never mentioned when comparing Maradona to Messi is that the former didn't score against West Germany in the finale.
Maradona assisted Jorge Burruchaga's winner, but was heavily marked and shut out the entire game. If that pass wasn't made in the 84th minute, the outcome of the game could have changed.
Football has changed dramatically from 1986 to the present day. One player can't carry a team to victory, and Germany proved it with their total-team effort of winning the World Cup. Sabella should be given plaudits for leading this group to the final considering the difference in quality between the two sides.
Whether Messi wins a World Cup is irrelevant. He's already earned three Champions League titles, which has tied him for fourth all time, per Wikipedia. There have been arguments put forward that the world's premier club competition is more prestigious than the summer spectacle.
There are several honours that make Messi a once-in-a-generation talent. His most recent is claiming the World Cup Golden Ball. That's why everyone should enjoy him while he's in the prime of his career, no matter where he ranks on the list of all-time greats. Messi will be successful with La Albiceleste if the national team improves.