Copa América

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Lionel Messi retires from international soccer: Will he return?


What do you say to Lionel Messi when he loses yet another final and announces his retirement from internationals?

Are his fans to cry, “Come back, Messi, we’ll always love you, come what may”?

Or to join his plaintive chorus to ‘Don’t cry for me, Argentina’.

“Don’t cry for me Argentina
The truth is I never left you
All through my wild days
My mad existence
I kept my promise
Don’t keep your distance.”

Truth be told, my first reaction to Messi’s missed penalty was the demoralising effect it would have on his teammates. To see their skipper miss his shot by a mile could only create more flutters and nerves in their midst.

And sure enough, his teammates missed another and that was the end of Argentina’s Copa America Centenario dreams.

That Messi would take this loss to heart and view it as a personal failure could only be foreseen in hindsight.

Will Messi be back?

The magician with the ball does know that soccer is a team game and that he’s not expected to shoulder the blame for his team’s inadequacies. And it’s not as though there isn’t a blueprint available on how to nullify the Messi threat personified by an Argentinean side. Germany have done it before and Chile did it to them twice.

Messi is hardly the first high-profile player to miss a crucial penalty. His Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo missed one in this year’s Euro. Roberto Baggio and Michel Platini are on that unfortunate list too.

Time is a great healer and it’s possible that the lure of another World Cup could draw the mercurial forward back.

Yes, it’s possible, and we certainly hope to see him back in national colours.

Until then, we’ll continue to enjoy his exploits with Neymar and Luis Suarez for Barca.

Is Lionel Messi losing it?


Is Lionel Messi losing it?

The charismatic Argentinean first head-butted his Roma opponent, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, and then grabbed him by the throat. Barcelona won 3-0

The usually cool-as-cucumber Messi has been red-carded just once in his international career—on his debut.

The Barca player escaped with a warning from the referee this time.

What is going on?

The Argentinean wasn’t exactly pleased with his performances during the Copa America where his team came close to winning the title only to lose to hosts Chile in the final.

This is the second time Messi has missed out on much-coveted silverware while representing his country. The first was the 2014 World Cup when Argentina drew a blank against Germany in the title round.

The reaction in the Argentine press has not been complimentary with questions about his greatness as a player and commitment to the national squad surfacing.

This despite the diminutive genius being adjudged the best player in both tournaments. There is no doubt that Messi is the best player on the planet.

Is he meeting his own exalted standards and expectations?

Diego Maradona was swift to launch a broadside at Messi’s feats in the South American tourney.

He said:

“It’s logical to fall, it is easy. We have the best player in the world, one who can go and score four goals on Real Sociedad and then he comes here and doesn’t score at all. You would say, but man, are you Argentine or Swedish? We need to stop busting on the folks who say that we should baby Messi. Messi needs to be treated just like we treat all the other players who put on the national team uniform. He is the best in the world, for better or worse. But look, he didn’t kill or rape anyone. Let’s not turn this into a soap opera.”

Messi’s grandfather, Antonio Cuccitini, was even more caustic.

He said:

“Some of him was there. Triumphs are the greatest things there are. But the last three games he was bad. He was lazy.”

More recently, the Human Rights Foundation criticized Messi for hobnobbing with abusers of children’s rights.

Messi laid the foundation stone for a venue for the Africa Cup of Nations 2017 together with Gabon dictator Ali Bongo.

France Football claimed that he was paid 2.4 million GBP to make the trip.

Human Rights Foundation President Thor Halvorssen said:

“In providing PR services to Gabon’s Bongo family, Lionel Messi has seriously undermined the credibility of his own charitable foundation. Whereas Messi claims to support children’s rights, and even serves as a UNICEF ambassador to promote youth education, he has endorsed a kleptocratic regime that refuses to investigate the ritual murder of children in Gabon.Messi’s trip is part of the Bongo family’s PR campaign to promote the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations, which Gabon will host at enormous expense despite the fact that the Bongo family’s embezzlement has left 20 per cent of the population to live on less than $2 per day.”

Is it all adding to the pressure on the AlbiCeleste forward?

Or is this latest incident merely an aberration, a blot on a stellar record?

Still waters run deep.

Are we witnessing a rebirth of Messi as a firebrand on the field?

The speculation continues.

 

 

Will Lionel Messi ever be considered great like Maradona or Pele?


Is Lionel Messi ever going to win a major title as an Argentine?

Two Copa America finals, one World Cup final and yet the cupboard is bare.

He may be the finest player of his generation but his national team is not. At least, not yet.

Accompanied by the Galacticos of Barcelona, the magician with the ball is almost invincible.

He does not enjoy the same support alongside his fellow countrymen.

What are the reasons for this relatively poor show?

It is relative because for his showings at the above named tournaments, the young man captured two player and one young player of the tournament awards.

Hardly, what you’d term a no show.

Comparisons to Pele and Maradona will always fall short if the 28-year-old genius fails to capture a major international title.

It was, perhaps, easier for Pele. Club football did not take up most of the players’ time in those days.

Maradona , though , is another kettle of fish. He catapulted a small club side, Napoli, to two Serie A titles and another couple of runner-up finishes.

Argentina, of course, won the 1986 World Cup under him and made another stalwart run for the title in 1990 losing to Germany in the final.

Is Lionel Messi finished as a Argentine midfielder?

It would be a pity if it were so as media reports suggest.

Messi has his best chance to fill his trophy case at the 2018 World Cup in Russia—provided he keeps himself healthy and fit. He will be even more experienced and hopefully at the peak of his career.

The mind boggles—you mean to say Messi can get even better?

It helps even more if his teammates do.

A freely roaming Messi can do more damage than a Messi who is man-marked by not one, not two but three defenders.

What would Argentina not give to have strikers of the caliber of Neymar and Suarez alongside their talisman?

Unfortunately, national soccer is not club soccer and throwing money at a problem does not make it go away. The ethos of teamwork assumes salient importance.

Messi himself once said:

I prefer to win titles with the team ahead of individual awards or scoring more goals than anyone else. I’m more worried about being a good person than being the best football player in the world. When all this is over, what are you left with? When I retire, I hope I am remembered for being a decent guy.

Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s what John Wooden has to say about teams:

The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team.

Messi will not be great until his bench-mates make him great.

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