Lionel Messi delivers inspirational moment to rekindle Argentina’s World Cup hopes

A success, and a little hope.

If a consistent line throughout Lionel Messi’s career has been that he looks like he was dropped onto the game from another plane, here he is down on this game to finally elevate it and elevate Argentina in the places qualifying.

His superb strike to beat Mexico wasn’t so much out of this world as it was out of this game. It was a real moment of individual inspiration totally disconnected from the general game, which made it all the more essential.

It also made it one of the highlights of this World Cup so far, before Enzo Fernandez followed with one of the World Cup goals so far.

Qatar will now be forever associated with another moment in footballing history, and that of one of Saudi Arabia’s rival tourism ambassadors.

It’s the power of sportswashing, distilled into the power of this shot.

Argentina will need much more than that if they are to do justice to their former status as potential champions.

The only thing that can be said for Lionel Scaloni’s side is that they are clearly more influenced by form and psychology than almost any other side, and it’s been a real boost in trust. The way Messi’s crisp, low shot just flew into the net made it look like things were finally going well. You could review the course of belief across Argentina. You could see it in the way Fernandez took the ball for that decisive strike.

They were playing with a conviction and confidence more recognizable in that long unbeaten streak that ended at the hands of Saudi Arabia this week.

It helped that Mexico eventually had to come out and play, if that’s even the right description. The only regret is that such a bad team can still qualify for the round of 16. It’s the worst Mexican team at a World Cup in decades. They had no ambition and brought Argentina back to their level for a long time.

The problem for the South American champions was that before Messi’s goal they weren’t really on top. The contrast with what followed, and the quality of the goals, were so striking.

Both teams were basically fighting for survival in this World Cup initially, but it got too literal. The game almost instantly escalated into a continuous exchange of fouls, dives, and hacked permissions. It was ugly stuff, in every way.

Lionel Messi scores Argentina’s first goal

(Getty Pictures)

At one point in the first half, Mexico played a ball down the right, which usually went nowhere near one of their forwards. Lisandro Martinez had time to comfortably take the ball, but instead just whipped it out of play.

It sums up the first half. Why try to use your ability when there’s some aggression to display?

Argentina tried to play more football, but the problem was that they weren’t very good at it. When you compare their first hour to what Spain were capable of against Costa Rica, it was like a different game. It was almost like another era. Argentina looked like they had never played in a form of tactical attack before, with no one really knowing where anyone else was going or what moves they were making.

This disjunction is compounded by the loss of Giovani Lo Celso, who is absent from this World Cup, and that has meant that they don’t seem to have a midfielder here at all. Against Saudi Arabia, they could assert no control. And this time they weren’t even in a hurry. They made mistakes on their own.

With Mexico stubbornly seated, that meant a lot of the game was about Messi picking the ball up too far from goal, beating someone but then having to give it away and Guillermo Ochoa’s defense sending Argentina into a center from the right which was generally inflamed. the stands.

It was a desperate thing.

Argentina were also becoming more desperate. There was only one man to turn to. He stepped up.

Messi celebrates after scoring against Mexico

(Getty Pictures)

If this is to finally be Messi’s World Cup, the great No.10 has delivered exactly the kind of winning excellence that marks such campaigns. It also had the effect of making everyone around him play better. Rarely was it more necessary.

Argentina still need to beat Poland to make sure of that, although a draw could be enough depending on Mexico annoying Saudi Arabia.

They couldn’t do it to Messi. He had too much life, too much class. All this means that his country has found hope.

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