Skip to main content

Lionel Messi partially to blame for Argentina heartbreak


Pat Riley, distinguished basketball player, coach and executive, once summed up his sport thus: “There’s only two things in the NBA —there’s winning and there’s misery.” Beyond the grammatical faux-pas, Riley was actually too short-sighted; for his pithy maxim extends to the entire professional sports landscape.

The Argentina national football team have experienced misery twice over during the past 12 months—in an extra-time heart-breaker against Germany in the World Cup final, and in a penalty shootout failure against hosts Chile in the Copa América final—continuing Lionel Messi’s long international nightmare.

Despite having achieved everything there is to achieve in club football, Messi’s inability to secure the sport’s ultimate prize, the World Cup (or a major international trophy of any kind, for that matter), leaves a gaping hole on his résumé.

Nonetheless, it hasn’t stopped the multitude of “Messianics” from praising the “messiah” to high heaven, and to prematurely bestow him—whose undeniable otherworldly exploits on a football pitch are fresh on everyone’s minds—as the greatest player of all-time. They justify it by amplifying Messi’s feats on the domestic front and dismissing, or at least rationalizing away, his lack of it on the international stage (never mind that the two usual suspects for the GOAT title, Diego Maradona from the previous era and Pelé from the era preceding that, not only won the ultimate prize but was the main reason for their teams doing so).

The most ardent defense the Messianics have of their man is to point out—quite rightly—how often he has been hamstrung by his bumbling Albicelestes teammates in the biggest moments. 


Messi carried his team to the World Cup final, but his teammates could not pick up the slack in the ultimate match: there were the golden chances spilled by Gonzalo Higuaín in the first half (the woeful miss after being gifted by a wayward Toni Kroos header; the gross negligence in not looking across the line as he made his run for the disallowed goal, compounded by the sheer obliviousness, after he slipped the ball past Manuel Neuer, in not even checking with the assistant referee for the mere possibility of an offside); the questionable substitution of the best-performing Ezequiel Lavezzi at half time by then-manager Alejandro Sabella; and the panicked lob miss by Rodrigo Palacio in extra time.

Fast forward 12 months, and Messi was let down by his teammates again, the Messianics would protest—too much, me thinks. This time it was the Copa America final: there was the unnecessary suicide run by Ángel Di María that nicked his hamstring; the preference of perennial big-match underachiever Higuaín as a substitute over the in-form forward Carlos Tevez by (current) manager Gerardo Martino; the ill-advised and sloppy pass from Lavezzi and the subsequent botched attempt by Higuaín at the end of regulation; and the penalty misses by Higuaín (again) and Éver Benega—after Messi coolly converted his—in the shootout.

Turn any one of these litany of close misses in each final into a make, the Messianics contend, and a new timeline is created which eventually sees Argentina as world and continental champions—and Messi as the all-time greatest.

But that is not a fair way to play the what-if game: to bend the arc of history in just the one direction. For Messi also squandered chances that could have turned the tides of history: a one-on-one against Neuer in the second half of the Cup final that just missed the far post, and a Cristiano Ronaldo-like free kick attempt at match’s end to force a crapshoot of a penalty shootout; and a distinct lack of adjustment in the Copa final to counter Chile’s physical style of play and the extra man sent to mark him.

Then again, there is also the matter of his truly anonymous performance in the World Cup semifinal, which, fortunately for Messi, was overshadowed by Dutch manager Louis van Gaal’s colossal gaffe in stranding his specialist spot-kick stopper Tim Krul—responsible for saving two of the five penalties in the shootout of Holland’s previous match—on the bench in a drab match that was destined for penalties.


This is of course not to suggest that Messi should be made the scapegoat for Argentina’s big-match failures. There is enough blame to go around: Messi’s teammates, his managers, and, not least, Messi himself. 

Because just like every other player who takes to the field (or manager who veers toward the dugout), Messi must be held accountable—especially since he is his team’s best player, captain, quasi-manager and totemic leader. 

To paraphrase a line from a parable of the actual Messiah: To whom much is given, much is expected.

Published by Harry Hongcolumnist at Barcablog.

Do you agree that Messi is partially to blame for Argentina not lifting neither the World Cup nor the Copa America?

Should Messi retire from international football until things get better? I'd love to hear your views. Share your comments with our community in the box below.


Popular posts from this blog

Who should Barcelona sign this summer? | The Barcablog Podcast

Marco Verratti and Thiago Alcantara are only two of the names discussed. Who else should be considered to join Barca during the summer transfer window? What does the team truly need?

This video is brought to you by FUBOTV. We have secured an EXCLUSIVE discount for you to watch ALL FC Barcelona matches in HD by clicking HERE -- You will also be supporting our podcast as well as we get a very small commission whenever our link is used.

The Barcablog Podcast #2 | Pique, Ramos, Verratti, Thiago, Ronaldinho and more!

Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos, Marco Verratti, Thiago Alcantara, Ronaldinho and Dani Alves are only a few of the names discussed by Francesc and Dan in Episode #2 of The Barcablog Podcast. As always, you are in for a treat -- If you love FC Barcelona and opinionated Cules speaking their mind, that is!

This episode is brought to you by FUBOTV. We have secured an EXCLUSIVE discount for you to watch ALL FC Barcelona matches in HD by clicking HERE -- You will also be supporting our podcast as well as we get a very small commission whenever our link is used.

Enjoy the show!

Barcelona Podcast: Who is the best Brazilian to ever play for Barca?

Barcelona fans have witnessed the very best of Brazil at the Camp Nou for decades. With so many talented stars to choose from, Francesc and Dan have a difficult task ahead in their podcast: Can anyone beat Dani Alves to the top spot of our 'Best of Brazil' countdown?

Did Barcelona deserve to lose La Liga? | The Barcablog Podcast

Barcelona lost La Liga to Real Madrid after taking the title race to the very last game. Did Messi, Neymar, Suarez and the rest of the Barca stars do enough to secure the trophy?

This video is brought to you by FUBOTV. We have secured an EXCLUSIVE discount for you to watch ALL FC Barcelona matches in HD by clicking HERE -- You will also be supporting our podcast as well as we get a very small commission whenever our link is used.

Marco Reus, preferred transfer target for Barca fans | Barcelona News

THE BARCABLOG PODCAST | Replacing Luis Enrique, Discussing La Masia | Episode I

We are proud to bring you our first ever The Barcablog Podcast! In this episode, Francesc and Dan discuss Luis Enrique’s replacement, Barça’s chances to win La Liga, the effectiveness of La Masia, Marlon’s impact on the first team, the future of Denis Suarez -- And some more mildly interesting random stuff!

Plus a special edition of ‘Random Corner’ in which the boys break down their horrendous 'The Worst 5 Barcelona signings of the XXI century' countdown. Did anyone beat Alexandr Hleb in our Top of the Flops list?

This episode is brought to you by FUBOTV. As a thank you, we have secured an EXCLUSIVE discount for you to watch every FC Barcelona match in HD by clicking HERE -- You will also be supporting our podcast as well as we get a very small commission whenever our link is used.

Enjoy the show!

How to watch every Barcelona game online, on mobile and on TV

Barcelona, lead by their legendary attacking trident of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar, are on a mission to bring more trophies to the Camp Nou museum this season -- and you should not miss a second of the action!

Whether you live in or outside the USA, you can easily stream every Barca match to your desktop computer, mobile device or even your TV.
FuboTV is a live streaming channel that offers every Barcelona match as well as the whole of La Liga, Bundesliga, Ligue 1, Serie A and Premiera Liga for only $6.99 a month.

I have personally been watching Barca on FuboTV for years and the 1080p Ultra-HD quality is certainly the best in the market right now. No more dodgy, pixelated streaming for me!

There is a 7-DAY free trial option available and if you cancel your subscription within 24 hours you will not be charged.

Click here to sign up for a 7-DAY free trial with FuboTV.

Fubo TV is currently only available in US. To watch …

BARCELONA PODCAST: El Clasico, Champions League elimination, La Liga

The latest Barca Podcast is now live! George Bennet from GB Articles interviewed Francesc Tomas and questioned him on Barca's recent El Clasico victory, the disastrous Champions League elimination and the decisive final matches in La Liga. You don't want to miss this!

Barcelona rewriting history after 1,500 matches at glorious Camp Nou

Barcelona have now played a staggering 1,500 games of football at the Camp Nou. The stadium, which was built back in 1957 to replace the legendary Les Corts Stadium due to the demand for tickets exceeding the ground’s capacity, has witnessed 1,119 Barca wins, 238 draws and only 143 defeats over the years.

Barca are clearly not invincible at the Camp Nou but their winning records of 75% and being unbeaten in 90% of home games speaks for themselves.

Barcelona have now become a global phenomenon thanks to not only their dominance, but also the many world-class stars that have been part of their squad over the years. Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar take the vast majority of the spotlight these days, but their success can only be understood as a continuation of the work of legends such as Johan Cruyff, Ronaldinho, Rivaldo, Hristo Stoichkov or Lazlo Kubala over the years.

Camp Nou is a synonym of sporting excellence these days. The recent successes under the leadership of Luis Enrique…

Neymar must stay to secure Barcelona long-term success

Neymar has been excellent for Barcelona since he joined the Catalan giants back in the summer of 2013. Despite the many question marks over whether he would accept to share the spotlight with Lionel Messi, his professionalism off the pitch and even the legality of his transfer, the Brazilian youngster has made a remarkable impact and deservedly become a Camp Nou favourite.

As our partners as Sbobet Mobile know, Barcelona are not currently leading the La Liga table but nobody in their right mind would rule them out of retaining the title. If the Blaugranas are to leapfrog Real Madrid before the end of the season and win the league for the third consecutive season, Neymar has a huge role to play in the nine games remaining.

Fortunately for Cules, Neymar is currently playing the best football of his whole career. Fully established at both club and international level, the No.11's confidence and excellent form makes him a constant danger that rivals constantly struggle to contain -- …