Lionel Messi was booed off the pitch by his own country after their drab 0-0 draw with Colombia. The player that tried the hardest to make things happen looked a dejected and forlorn figure as he trudged off to the last thing a player would want to hear from his own supporters.
Determined to shine in that light blue jersey, he came back and put on a hell of a show against Costa Rica. It was a performance that may finally take him to the giddy heights of legends Diego Maradona and Pele.
Argentina needed to win this match more than ever—the hopes of a nation long deprived of a trophy depended on it.
The aftermath of River Plate’s relegation told us what the fans are capable of: a passionate, demanding bunch who were so desperate to taste success in the midst of an economic crisis and recession.
Messi shouldered the heaviest burden, but my did he deliver.
It wasn’t a typical Messi performance we would see in Barcelona; instead, he reincarnated into teammate Xavi Hernandez and took his country into the Copa America quarterfinals.
If Gonzalo Higuain had connected with his inch perfect cross, Argentina would have been one up in the first 15 minutes. He laid another chance on a plate for the Real Madrid hitman, but again Higuain blasted wide.
Messi had enough feeding a wasteful striker, so he turned to another striker hungry for goals in the form of Sergio Aguero.
This time Argentina were no longer a frustrated team, they were cruising and it was only a matter of how many they would score. Messi’s darting runs and inch perfect passes were just too much for the young Costa Ricans.
They had put too much emphasis on marking him, leaving the rest open and just waiting to pounce.
If there is one thing players should have learnt by now, it is to never ever man-mark Messi.
s displayed, he breathlessly whizzed past players and could only be stopped by sheer physical contact.
Instead of finding the net he took on Xavi’s vision and passing range, added some pace into it and laid on at least five clear-cut scoring opportunities, two of which resulted in goals.
Perhaps Messi is best suited for a Xavi role when playing for country. He doesn’t get the royal service like he does in Barcelona, so maybe he should be providing them instead.
The likes of Aguero and Angel di Maria have the killer instinct to find the net; Higuain and Carlos Tevez will do so eventually.
Lionel Messi doesn’t have to score tons of goals to inspire his country to greatness, he just had to stamp his authority and presence on the pitch.
On Tuesday he did just that.
The frown and dejection were gone, replaced by joy and sheer ecstasy.
Messi: the magician at Barcelona, the architect for Argentina.