Ever since they lost their second consecutive Copa America final against Chile and ‘Tata’ Martino decided to depart his role at head coach, Argentina have turned into something of a disaster.
They have been engulfed in such a downward spiral that it almost cost them their place at the World Cup. Simply put, nothing seemed to go right for them.
In the end though, qualification was achieved and it was done so without having to navigate the potential banana skin of a play-off. Jorge Sampaoli’s side, and the manager himself, were saved by their guardian angel, the one player that they can turn to no matter what the odds and the one player that they perhaps turn to too much.
In Argentina, football is like a religion and the memory of Diego Maradona’s heroics hangs over the head of any player who dare sport the number ’10’ shirt for the ‘Albiceleste’.
With pressure weighing on his shoulder like never before, Lionel Messi once again successfully navigated every obstacle placed in front of him with the minimum of fuss.
The diminutive star brushed off altitude sickness to give Argentina fans hope that they could once again lift the Julet Rimet Tophy. A feat that many believe would finally lift Messi above Maradona’s god-like status. Messi has won everything with Barcelona, but success on the international stage has always evaded him, not that it is entirely his fault though, if anything, his team-mates have to take significant blame for always expecting Messi to do everything himself.
Despite their rocky qualification campaign, Argentina will arrive at next summer’s World Cup among the favourites for the tournament and the pressure will be on the likes of Messi to prove themselves all over again.
Messi also brushed aside the abysmal running of the Argentinian Football Federation over the course of the last year, whose string of ill-conceived ideas and reckless notions served only to increase the pressure on those out on the pitch.
Despite everything, Messi is still there, doing what he does best. Off the pitch you are unlikely to hear too much from him but on it, his actions speak infinitedly louder than words ever could.