World Cup | Before Saudi Arabia-Argentina: Lionel Messi, the icon without the images

Football owes him a World Cup“. On Saturday, the Catalan newspaper Sport did not beat around the bush: if Lionel Messi came to leave without a world title, there would be a taste of injustice.”There is a whole country behind that believes that Leo deserves this title and even beyond these borders“, summed up Mauricio Pochettino with El Pais. Football is brilliant in that it can be cruel to its greatest recent genius. In the World Cup, it was towards Messi, more than reason.

Retracing the relationship of the Pulga with the World Cup is to fall back on these images of 2014, possibly. In the firmament of his European domination, Messi touches his dream by joining the final in Brazil. There, on the land of his eternal rivals, well helped by an Angel Di Maria in a state of grace during the final phase, “Leo” does what he can face Germany.

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The failures of Higuain or Palacio, the kick of Götze, his World MVP trophy with a bitter taste and his eternal regrets: at the Maracanã, Messi saw an inner explosion that is now part of him. “What do you want me to tell you?he breathed painfully on the FIFA website in 2015. That’s a shame. We will regret all our lives for these missed opportunities that we did not know how to put at the bottom“.

Lionel Messi after Argentina’s defeat in the 2014 World Cup final

Credit: Getty Images

Four editions, three big disappointments

If his sponsor had fun reconstructing the five versions of Messi at the World Cup in a commercial, only 2014 leaves memories. The others were crossed with discretion and disappointment. In 2006, the young prodigy opened his counter but was only a back-up player for José Pékerman. In 2010, the Albiceleste was outclassed by the Mannschaft in the quarter-finals (4-0) while Messi was ghostly. In 2018, Jorge Sampaoli is at the head of a shaky house, which collapses in the face of the mad races of Kylian Mbappé (4-2). But, in 2022, the inherent weaknesses of this team seem much more related.

Perhaps less talented but much more collectively armed, Lionel Scaloni’s troops arrive with the firm intention of playing their card, they who have not lost for 36 matches and are surfing on this national enthusiasm resulting from the last victory in Copa America. Lionel Messi has said it over and over since this Argentinian group was “exceptional“in its human dimension.

Although he lost his roommate, Kun Agüero – who was not replaced in the dormitory -, the Pulga retains strong ties with Angel Di Maria, Leandro Paredes, Rodrigo de Paul and Nicolas Otamendi, his usual partners for mate and card games. On the pitch, it is above all his connection with Lautaro Martinez that will be closely scrutinized.

Lionel Messi on his way to the title in Qatar?

Credit: Getty Images

What feat of arms to remember?

This 2022 World Cup is above all an opportunity to mark consciences a little more and to correct this frustrated relationship. When he leaves the scene, the Pulga will have a host of memories to offer when remaking the film of his career. Mainly in the Champions League, much less in the World Cup.

His main feats of arms? His coiled strike against Iran in 2014? His double against Nigeria the same year? Son but virtuoso and saving against the same Nigeria in 2018? A little light for his pedigree. So, in Qatar, it is also his heritage that is at stake. His place among the legends is assured. It remains to be seen at what position.

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