The enduring No.10 has by no means scored a purpose within the World Cup knockout stage – if Argentina lose to Mexico, he will not even make the final 16 in Qatar
Tata Martino is properly conscious that he is in a peculiar place.
“I do know the place I used to be born,” the Mexico coach advised reporters on the eve of Saturday’s monumental showdown together with his native Argentina.
“I will inform you the yr, the title of the hospital, town’s space code. However I’ve to do all the things doable for Mexico to win.”
And to try this, he must cease Lionel Messi, a person he beforehand coached at Barcelona.
“The very best footballer of the final 15 years, not less than,” Martino declared. “In relation to stopping him, it is extra actually because he is having a foul afternoon than what the opposition does.”
Messi can ill-afford a foul afternoon on the Lusail Stadium. His World Cup legacy is on the road.
There may be no excuses. That is arguably the perfect – or not less than essentially the most united – Argentina facet he is ever performed.
That they had arrived in Qatar on a 36-game unbeaten run. The all-time worldwide document was inside their grasp.
And but they opened their marketing campaign with a 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia – a staff forty eighth locations beneath them on the earth rankings.
As shocks go, it was proper up there with the largest in World Cup historical past.
Lionel Scaloni admitted his gamers had been “all in ache” as they sat in shocked silence within the dressing room.
They weren’t the one ones struggling to course of the defeat. One Argentine journalist might be present in tears within the blended zone after the sport.
“A tragic day,” as Scaloni conceded.
It had began so properly, although, with Messi coolly making amends for his penalty miss in Argentina’s opener towards Iceland 4 years in the past by rolling residence a smooth spot-kick.
Nevertheless, they subsequently didn’t get the measure of Saudi Arabia’s excessive line, seeing three first-half ‘objectives’ dominated out for offside, and paid a heavy value, with Saudi Arabia pulling off a seismic upset because of Saleh Al-Shehri and Salem Al-Dawsari.
“It’s obscure as a result of in four-to-five minutes, they scored twice,” a clearly shell-shocked Scaloni lamented. “I believe they had been the one photographs on purpose.”
If the Saudis had rode their luck, although, there was no denying that the Argentines had failed dismally to reply to adversity.
So many gamers underperformed. On ITV, former Manchester United captain Roy Keane was left astounded by Angel Di Maria’s abject show, whereas Cristiano Romero was so unhealthy that he was changed early within the second half.
The midfield was a horror present, although, with Leandro Paredes and Rodrigo De Paul wanting precisely like what they’re: two males who have not performed common soccer this season.
It was Messi, although, who unsurprisingly bore the brunt of the net criticism.
His GOAT standing was mocked and there have been the standard unflattering comparisons to Diego Maradona, even from the nice man’s son.
“The comparability between Messi and my dad is made by those that do not see and do not perceive soccer,” Diego Junior argued on Radio Marte. “We’re speaking about two completely different planets.”
He is clearly just a little biased and Messi’s greatness should not be outlined by one event – however there is no denying that his World Cup legacy could be tarnished by an embarrassingly early exit from his ultimate event.
No person is writing Messi off but, although. Not even Diego Junior.
“I do not rule out Messi making his mark,” he added. “Generally in soccer it occurs that you simply lose even towards a lot weaker opponents.
“If you happen to do not shut the video games, even the poorest groups will come at you.”
Argentina actually paid a heavy value for being repeatedly caught offside towards Saudi Arabia, and they’ll have to be way more exact towards Mexico, and never simply when it comes to the timing of their runs, but additionally their capturing.
They’re, in any case, going up towards a goalkeeper that at all times appears to show into a mixture of Lev Yashin and Dino Zoff each time a World Cup rolls round – Guillermo Ochoa.
And the unhealthy information for Argentina is that after incomes his nation a valuable level towards Poland by saving a Robert Lewandowski penalty, Ochoa is now really wanting ahead to going through Messi.
“Leo has that magic, he can do nothing and from one minute to the following he can resolve issues and rating a purpose,” he defined. “However it is going to be a pleasant problem.
“It should be very tough however what higher stage than a World Cup towards probably the greatest gamers in historical past, if not the perfect.”
For some, although, Messi is lacking a type of actually magical World Cup moments that all the recreation’s greats have on their CV.
Bear in mind, the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner has but to even rating a purpose within the knockout stage, and Argentina are actually vulnerable to failing to even make the final 16 at Qatar 2022.
It should not all come down to 1 man, after all. Each Scaloni and Messi himself say Argentina want to stay united, now extra so than ever earlier than throughout their document run.
They should take collective accountability for the shocking state of affairs that they discovered themselves, and work collectively to get themselves out of it.
However the captain clearly has to steer by instance towards Mexico. There have been whispers that Messi’s not absolutely match, that he is been hampered in coaching by a minor niggle.
However Scaloni says his skipper is ok, bodily and mentally.
Nothing lower than a decisive show will probably be tolerated; such is the fickle and unforgiving nature of soccer right this moment. GOATs do not exit within the first spherical, in any case.
Rightly or wrongly, then, this one’s on Messi. He has to save lots of Argentina – and his World Cup legacy.
Over to you, Leo…