By, Kyle Gibson
Argentina is the 8th largest country in the world, with an area of more than one million square miles.
Starting today, those million square miles are resting on the 5’7 frame of Lionel Messi.
Messi, one of the best soccer players Argentina (nay, the World) has ever produced, will lead Argentina into his 3rd World Cup Finals. This one will weigh heavier on Messi than any other because of his past performances at the World Cup, which are less than stellar, and the fact that the Finals are one country over, in rival Brazil’s territory.
The 2006 World Cup should not hang on Messi. He became the youngest player Argentina had played at a World Cup, scored and assisted a goal and was left out of the quarterfinal loss to host Germany.
It’s 2010 that should haunt Messi, as he failed to score a goal when Argentina again lost to Germany in the quarterfinals. However, FIFA still saw enough from Messi to put him on the Golden Ball (best player) shortlist.
I don’t think it’s fair for this World Cup burden to fall squarely on Messi. After all, there are some true stars surrounding Messi that, although they don’t shine as brightly, can play some amazing soccer.
No, if Argentina’s fans want their team to win, they should look more at the rest of the team than at Messi. A team in modern soccer can’t win by one player alone (think Portugal’s 2010 group stage exit with Cristiano Ronaldo and 10 flower pots).
I’m looking at you first, Angel Di Maria. You proved that you can play on the biggest stage by having the best game out of anyone in the Champions League Final. You played all 120 minutes and looked like a fresh substitute in extra time with the pace of your runs. You set up the goal that sent Madrid to extra time. You can help set up Messi and the plethora of Argentine attacking options the same way.
I’m looking at you as well, Pablo Zabaleta. You play right back at the highest level in the world with Manchester City. It’s up to you and your fellow back liners like Ferderico Fernandez and Ezequiel Garay to keep the scores low and start the attack from the back.
Also, I’m looking at you, Javier Mascherano. Barring injury, you will hit 100 caps at this World Cup. You have excelled at being the best at doing dirty work for years. Keep this up and there’s no reason why this team can’t go to the Finals.
Also, Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero and Ezequiel Lavezzi, always be on the lookout for Messi’s crosses and if he’s hot, pass him the damn ball.
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