It seems that Barcelona forward Lionel Messi is the sole reason why Argentina have exited World Cup 2018 at the first knockout stage, or so some critics would like you to believe anyway.
La Albiceleste fell at the last 16 stage suffering a 4-3 defeat against Argentina on Saturday in an extraordinary encounter. Messi produced two assists, but it was not enough to keep the South Americans in the competition.
Messi and the team he has seemingly attempted to carry for so long are heading home with nothing but regrets about their performances in Russia.
Messi was not at his best
First thing is first, one of the best footballers to ever grace a football pitch was not at his best. However, that may have been because he was trying to do everything himself, as he felt his teammates were just not up to the job.
He kept coming deep in games to receive the ball, as nobody in the Argentina midfield seems to have the vision, flair or ability to create anything. Ever Banega produced one sublime pass to Messi against Nigeria, and that was all he received from his lukewarm teammates.
Messi is a fantastic footballer, but football is a team game. No matter what people say, players do not win competitions on their own. Even Diego Maradona Messi’s apart great Argentinian predecessor did not win World Cup 1986 on his own. He had good teammates.
Argentina have a poor team
Argentina have some excellent individuals in the likes of Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria and Gonzalo Higuain. However, that is what they are individuals, as the two forward players, in particular, are entirely selfish with the ball. Neither are great at hold the ball up for their teammates, which leads to attacks breaking down.
The lesser said about the second-rate goalkeepers such as Willy Caballero and Franco Armani the better. Manchester City centre-back Nicolas Otamendi heading into the World Cup on the back of an exceptional season.
However, he struggled to hold together a defence that does a good impression of the keystone cops. Then there was the ageing Javier Mascherano sitting in front of the defence, shielding absolutely nothing. The former Barcelona star has now called time on his international career. I don’t think he had to do that. I believe his performances already that for him.
There will be significant changes
At times Argentina boss Jorge Sampaoli has looked like a rabbit caught in the headlights. The former Sevilla chief has struggled to find a winning formula for La Albiceleste. His central tactical philosophy seems to have been to tell his players to give it to Messi and hope he produces a moment of magic.
To be fair to Messi, he has produced many moments of magic throughout his career. However, he has not managed it in Russia this summer.
It is unclear whether Messi will continue playing international football or not. There is one thing that is certain is there will be significant changes to the Argentina playing personnel and even in the dugout.
To blame Messi for Argentina’s poor World Cup is highly simplistic. Messi did not make terrible errors leading up to goals or gift the opposition golden opportunities to score. Contrary to belief, he does not pick the team. Therefore he was not responsible for Marco Icardi’s omission from the squad or Paolo Dybala lack of playing time.
Lionel Messi will remain one of the best players football has ever seen. However, many will now unfairly remember him as a great who has not won a major international trophy.
Who was responsible for Argentina’s torrid World Cup campaign?