|Host Country: Qatar Appointment: November 20-December 18 Cover: Live on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer, BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru, BBC Sounds and the BBC Sport website and app. Day-to-day TV programs – Full coverage details|
It just had to be him.
On his 1,000th appearance in professional football and his 100th game as Argentina captain, Lionel Messi has once again stepped up to keep his country’s World Cup dream alive.
In his fifth World Cup, the ‘magician’ finally scored his first-ever World Cup knockout goal as Argentina took another step to end their 36-year wait for football glory. World Cup with a 2-1 win in the second round against Australia.
After a nervy first half hour, Messi stepped in to open the scoring and from there it all went smoothly in an absolutely bouncy Ahmad bin Ali Stadium – until a late goal from the valiant Aussies did the trick. an all-powerful scare to Argentina.
The Argentines now face a tantalizing quarter-final against the Dutch with the hopes of a nation once again resting inevitably on their number 10, who is now the tournament’s co-top scorer with three goals.
Messi, who scored his 789th career goal, said: “I’m happy to have taken another step forward, to have achieved another goal. It was a very strong and difficult match.”
Former England defender Rio Ferdinand said on BBC One: “The best individual performance by a player in this World Cup. It was almost divine. I haven’t seen anything like it.
“How does he do that? He embarrasses the players with his head held high. He faces people and is able to see the whole pitch, where people are. He’s phenomenal.”
Fans in awe of Messi
“Muchachos, ahora nos volvimo’ a ilusionar.”
This is the Argentinian song that has gone viral in our country.
The players were filmed singing it and it was these lyrics – translated as ‘Boys, now we’re excited again’ – that were on the lips of fans before, during and after the game.
The Albiceleste faithful bounced around in the metro and in the stands singing it over and over and they attended a masterclass by 35-year-old Messi.
Heavy breaths echoed around Ahmad bin Ali every time the little southpaw put his famous boot on the ball and he rocked the stadium with a delightful opener.
There was only one result when the ball fell to him in the box, stroking a nerveless finish in the far corner to put Argentina on their way.
Fans found themselves chanting “Messi, Messi, Messi” at the final whistle and he joined his teammates in jumping up and down past their following worshiper long after the end.
Messi said: “It’s incredible feelings, I’m really happy to share their beautiful moment with the fans. I know how much effort they put in to come here and I know that all of Argentina wants to be here. The links , the union we have something beautiful.
“It’s incredible the passion, the energy and the joy of the fans. It’s incredible. They experience it from the inside and I see how they suffer and take advantage of it. It’s spectacular. They are excited, like all Argentines.”
Former England captain Alan Shearer said on BBC One: “We are so lucky to be in this stadium to watch him. What a performance from him, we talked about his ability, his hunger and his desire.
“The ability to run with the ball that attracts so many players, allowing him to free his teammates.
“The way Messi works that space, the way he carries the ball when there’s a lot going on around him. He’s got everything.
“Every time he receives the ball, the whole stadium goes up. No matter where he is on the pitch, the whole stadium goes up.”
Messi’s goal was remarkably his first in the knockout stage of a World Cup, but his tally of nine is just one shy of Gabriel Batistuta’s record for Argentina.
Against Australia, he completed 90% of his passes, created four chances and made nine touches in the opposition box.
Socceroos boss Graham Arnold added: “He’s incredible. One of the greatest of all time. We’ve worked really hard not to be impressed with him, but he’s remarkable.
“Argentina should be so proud and happy to have players of this caliber.”
Similarities with 1986?
Under Lionel Scaloni, Argentina are aiming for a third world crown – the last in 1986 when Diego Maradona inspired them to lift the trophy.
Coming out of the stadium, it was a sea of Argentina number 10 shirts with the names of Messi and Maradona printed on the back.
BBC presenter and former England striker Gary Lineker played against Maradona in 1986, in a quarter-final made infamous by the Argentine star kicking the ball into the net for the game’s first goal.
Lineker said: “It reminds me a bit of 1986 and the team with Maradona. Hard to face, tough, enduring tough games and fighting your way through.
“They were hard to beat and relied on the magic of Maradona. There are so many similarities. Maradona was at his peak, Messi is obviously coming to the end of his career. But can they do it?
“He does things that I haven’t seen any other player except probably Maradona do. And having two of those players, both left-handed and both from the same country, both small…
“Different eras, enjoy them both.”
Ex-Argentina defender Pablo Zabaleta added: “We still rely too much on Messi. The first half wasn’t good enough and we needed to play much faster.
“When Messi is on the ball, he’s the only one who brings so much danger and a real threat to the future.”
Messi in numbers
- Messi has become the oldest Argentine to score a knockout goal at the World Cup – taking the ‘record’ from Roberto Ayala.
- He is one of six players to have appeared in five different World Cups.
- He is the second player to score at least three World Cup goals after his 35th birthday, after Roger Milla (five) for Cameroon.
What you said on social media:
SuperSpoonerman: Messi’s twilight years in football seem to be going much better than Ronaldo’s
James: It looked like a Sunday League game in which the only good player said; I’m going to score now and there’s nothing you can do to stop me.
Beck: No footballer will ever reach the level of Messi. NOBODY!!!
Damien Clough: Messi is two years younger than Ronaldo but has always looked much more mature
Roy Neymer: Lionel Messi is not normal.
Get the latest results and goal notifications for any FIFA World Cup team by downloading the BBC Sport app: Apple – android – Amazon
Get your daily dose of FIFA World Cup reaction, debate and analysis with world cup everyday on BBC Sounds