What Lionel Messi achieved at the age of 35 was beyond anyone’s wildest imagination. With the 2022 World Cup, he has shattered any lingering criticism that he would have underachieved with his national team. What was even more remarkable was the fact that he did it in a way we haven’t seen him do previously in the colours of Argentina.
In years gone by, Messi often appeared to cut a forlorn figure when things didn’t go the way of his team. This time around, he has been in the eye of everything good and bad about Argentina. When Saudi Arabia stunned his side in the opening game, he came out and put himself in the glare, asking the fans to believe in this group of players. And even after the wins, he continued to be the face and voice of this team, allowing the others to thrive around him.
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On the pitch, he still remained the goal-scorer (seven goals) and the creator (three assists). He created the second most number of chances in the tournament as he relentlessly dragged Argentina through an emotionally-charged roller-coaster game after game. There was also a spiky edge to him against the opponents which he comfortably embraced in this run.
He even brought out a mix of all his hits: the strike against Mexico in the group stages, the smoothest of passing finish for the goal and the dizzying run from the halfway line against Australia in the Round of 16, the nutmegs, the assist against the Dutch which probably no one in the stadium could see in the quarterfinals and spinning Josko Gvardiol all over Lusail before setting up Julian Alvarez for a goal.
He came into the World Cup with one final appearance, six goals, zero goals in the knockouts and a Golden Ball for what was thought of as his best tournament back in 2014. Hardly a reflection of his talent and legend. After this World Cup, he has a maiden title, 13 goals and eight assists (Argentina’s greatest scorer in World Cups), five goals in the knockouts and two Golden Balls. He is the only player to score in all knockout games of an edition. There was always this belief that Messi’s talents were destined to match up to the achievements of a World Cup great. In his own terms, Messi has turned the belief into fruition.
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