Argentina has fallen to an embarrassing 3-0 loss against Iceland. Messi was the best player of his generation, but this game will be remembered for what Argentina did without him: letting in four goals and playing with no flair or creativity.
The “where is lionel messi from” is a question that has been asked before. Argentina will not be able to win any games without the player.
When Lionel Scaloni took over as Argentina’s interim coach following the 2014 World Cup, he was preoccupied with France, the team who had just won the tournament and eliminated Argentina in the process. Scaloni predicted that the future will be defined by swift transitions and counter-attacks. It was the style Argentina need, and it was the style he intended to instill.
It only lasted one competitive match, a dreadful 2-0 loss to Colombia in the 2019 Copa America.
Scaloni’s thesis has a significant problem. His style of play didn’t mesh well with his star player. Scaloni was astute enough to see his blunder and modest enough to admit it. During the remainder of the competition, he sat back and began putting together a team that was more suited to Lionel Messi’s outstanding abilities.
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By match, I mean Argentina improved during the Copa, despite losing in the quarterfinals to Brazil and finishing third overall. Since then, they haven’t been defeated. And Messi has seldom, if ever, seemed happier than when he is serving his nation. Argentina’s style relies on a possession-based midfield, rather than Scaloni’s initial emphasis on the rapid counter-attack. Giovani Lo Celso of Tottenham Hotspur has forged a strong on-field bond with Messi, who also gets along with Rodrigo De Paul and anchorman Leandro Parades. And his connection with Lautaro Martinez, the center-forward, is improving all the time.
And now that Messi has left Barcelona and is still a newcomer at PSG, it looks that representing Argentina has become even more important to him. The footballing public in the country has felt this, and has developed a bond with him that is arguably greater than it has ever been, particularly after his victory against Brazil in the Copa America final in July.
Messi and Argentina can confidently build toward next year’s World Cup, and he is having so much fun that he is hesitant to retire from international football. He recently said that Qatar 2022 would not be the last year. He’s taking it one game at a time.
But, and this is a terrible reality that football fans will have to accept, Messi will play his last game one day. At the age of 34, he is nearing the end of his life. We’ll have to make do without him. Argentina will have to do without him for the time being.
It’s likely that Friday’s away encounter against Uruguay may provide a glimpse into this unimaginable future. Messi is not in peak physical condition, suffering from knee and muscle issues. PSG are not pleased that he crossed the Atlantic; they believe he should have remained in Europe and worked on his fitness.
Messi has been training, but the temptation to rest him and keep him fresh for Tuesday’s home game against Brazil must be strong. Messi, who is known for wanting to play all the time, is unlikely to succumb to the temptation. But how can Argentina replace the vacuum if Scaloni decides to leave him out of the Uruguay game?
Messi missed a lot of games during Argentina’s last qualifying campaign for Russia 2018, due to injury and suspension, and the team suffered mightily without him. To guarantee that the squad secured their spot, he had to do heroics on the home straight. He has been ever present this time. In a competitive match, Scaloni has never had to play without him. If Messi is unable to participate on Friday, the Uruguay game — which will be played against highly motivated and dangerous opponents — will become an intriguing glimpse into the future.
What do you think Scaloni will do?
Argentina teammates Lautaro Martinez (center) and Joaquin Correa (right) are embraced by Lionel Messi. AFP/YURI CORTEZ/POOL
Paulo Dybala is the most likely and simplest replacement. In what has so far been an exceedingly unsuccessful international career, the Juventus striker has failed to make an impression. One of the issues, as Dybala has already said, has been the inability to connect with Messi. Both of them are often seeking for the ball in the same spot, and there is only one winner in that competition. Dybala has a frail, frightened demeanor. Maybe he’s mature enough now to take advantage of Messi’s likely absence.
Another apparent candidate is Joaquin Correa, who is often utilized by Scaloni as a second-half substitution. Correa has regularly been called upon to play center-forward, despite the fact that he is not a natural fit for the position. Now he may play with his Internazionale colleague Martinez, who is a true centre-forward.
And there’s a third option, one that the Argentine press is pushing hard: River Plate’s Julian Alvarez.
This has a bit of a hometown bias to it. With so many stars residing in Europe, it’s always exciting to see homegrown talent receive the call. This may lead to absurd, even childish levels of nationalism. Before the past World Cup, for example, some in the local media promoted the concept of a national squad made up of Messi, Cristian Pavon, and nine others, despite the fact that Boca Juniors winger Pavon was nowhere near talented enough to warrant such attention.
Is Alvarez any different? The 21-year-old attacker has all the makings of a future superstar. He is a natural collaborator who uses quick passes to open up opposition defenses. He is quick, skilled, clever, and adaptable, and he can play all over the offensive line. It’s surprising that Alvarez is still based in Argentina, but River Plate coach Marcelo Gallardo has made it a point to ease him into the game, building a long-term career rather than searching for a quick buck.
Has he been establishing a reputation for himself in a safe environment, or might he be the sort of player capable of filling Messi’s shoes without seeming foolish? These are concerns that go beyond the match versus Uruguay. However, some fascinating evidence may be found in Montevideo on Friday night.
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