How can Argentina get the best out of Lionel Messi?

Annette Crawford
June 20, 2018

Messi endured a tough opening game in Russian Federation, including seeing a second-half penalty saved in the shock Group D draw. "We have to look forward and win the next match against Croatia". We can all miss a penalty.

Messi arrived at the last World Cup finals in Brazil suffering from fatigue after a season of high-octane action with Barcelona and Sampaoli staged a meeting with his skipper last January to try and avoid a repeat.

While Messi has proved himself time and again for a decade and more at club level, global glory has eluded the maestro who has had so many agonising brushes with glory in his pursuit of success with Argentina.

He even briefly left the national team altogether in 2016 after failing on a penalty kick in the Copa America Final against Chile.

He has delivered for his Spanish club - four Champions League titles, and nine La Liga championships - but still no major titles for Argentina.

He added: "When we succeed with Argentina, everyone takes credit for it but when Argentina loses, it's always Leo's fault".

"He is the first who wants to bring the Cup with him". With a player of Messi's talent, it is a waste to confine him to one part of the pitch. We're talking about a World Cup that involves millions of people.

"But obviously I think we must work together".

He insisted it gave him flexibility to adapt against different opponents, but acknowledged Argentina needed to be more "elastic" in their play.

Messi and his teammates have had a strained relationship with the Argentine media and have often felt unfairly criticised.

Lionel Messi has all the support of his Argentina team-mates and they will "keep by his side", according to Paulo Dybala. When Messi is out on the right, Argentina's attacking play lacks an edge.

The diminutive Argentine captain known as "La Pulga" (The Flea) has won every club accolade imaginable with Barcelona, but has agonizingly missed out on global trophies both at the World Cup and Copa America. He deserves to win the World Cup. As a outcome of that pressure we are stronger now, this qualification will make us stronger to face the future.

"It is clear that Messi's legacy and standing within the game would be enhanced with victory in Russian Federation this summer, but he does not need to win the World Cup to be viewed as Maradona's equal", argued London-based sports writer Greg Lea in an article for The Sportsman.

Argentina are set to face Croatia on Thursday and Sampaoli has broken down the group leaders' tactics, without, however, revealing his starting line-up this time.

He dare not fail again.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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