Messi summons magic just in time to save Argentina against Mexico

LUSAIL, Qatar – In the first 63 minutes of Argentina’s decisive and surprising second match of the 2022 World Cup, Lionel Messi was the picture of frustration.

Switching between right wing and midfield, he barely touched the ball against a Mexican team bent on containing him.

On the rare occasions he did, he tried to do too much. With a group of El Tri defenders tracking his every move, there was always a sea of ​​green shirts around him. He knocked down one or two, only to be knocked out before he could carve into an open space or play a quick two-on-one match with a teammate.

Highlights Argentina and Mexico

Highlights Argentina and Mexico

With his team on the brink and struggling to break through, Leo Messi found his usual magic as Argentina beat Mexico 2-0.

With nearly 90,000 fans waiting inside the iconic Lusail Stadium watching his every move, the tension built up to an almost excruciating level as the seconds ticked away. Could he end up the way he has so many times before in his country’s shirt of the greatest player who ever lived: in misery?

The difference this time was that there would be no chance of salvation. The 35-year-old Messi announced before the tournament that the World Cup, his fifth, would be his last. That beautiful Gold Cup is the only one he’s never won, and it’s the only blemish on a career like no other.

This year was supposed to be different. This is the best team Albiceleste Messi has seen around. This cast helped him win the Copa America last summer, his first title for his country. The end of the story line was supposed to come with the World Cup Final whistle in the same stadium next month.

But the shocking loss to Saudi Arabia in Argentina’s opening match in Qatar allowed pressure and doubt to creep in again. Argentina needed to beat Mexico – or at least not lose – on Saturday to restore their championship dreams and soccer fans’ hopes of a globe Messi would get the farewell he so richly deserves.

Leave it to the little magician to do everything himself.

On the hour mark, Messi showed exactly why he’s the goat – and why he’s not done yet. He stormed into the space in front of El Tri’s backline, finding himself with the ball in his famous left foot.

Time stopped. Messi recovered his shin and hit the ball along the grass just out of reach of Mexico goalkeeper Memo Ochoa, just inside the far post.

The goal sent tens of thousands of Argentine fans behind the goal into ecstasy. It was a perfect strike from a perfect player, and it came when they needed it most.

Certainly even the Mexican fans in attendance – the deafeningly boisterous crowd was evenly divided between green and light blue – could not be envied.

This is how Messi became respected across the planet. He has given football fans so much joy, for so long, that it’s almost impossible to crack him down. It doesn’t matter if you are Brazilian or Madrid, everyone understands and can appreciate how special Messi is.

With all the tension released into the ether, after Messi’s moment of brilliance, Argentina took control. Enzo Fernandez put the game away with an assist from Messi with three minutes of normal time remaining.

The task is not complete, of course. I just started. Argentina have just three points from their first two matches and still have to face Robert Lewandowski’s Poland – who beat the Saudis 2-0 just hours earlier – in Wednesday’s Group C final. But Not albiceleste They did what they needed to do on Saturday. Instead of collapsing under the weight of overwhelming expectations, they responded and reclaimed their place as one of the favorite titles.

Now, they have momentum as well as every neutral behind them.

After staring the unthinkable — elimination from World Cup competition before even playing their third first-round match — in the face for over an hour, the dream is alive.

Messi is on a mission. It’s not over, not by a huge margin.

His tournaments on Saturday proved that Argentina and the Goats can still win this World Cup, even if he has to drag his team to the podium on his own.

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Doug McIntyre is a football writer for FOX Sports. Prior to joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a writer for ESPN and Yahoo Sports and covered the United States men’s and women’s national teams at multiple FIFA World Cup tournaments. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.


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