Lionel Messi did more than most to make sure Argentina qualified for the World Cup finals in Russia.
It looked incredibly ropey during the qualification phase. But the little magician scored a spectacular hat-trick against Ecuador in the final round of games to seal their spot.
And if Jorge Sampaoli’s side are to have any chance of glory over the next four weeks or so, they’ll need Messi in top form.
Frankly, La Albiceleste’s squad is far from the quality you need to win the Jules Rimet trophy. In fact, it’s not even close to the quality of some of the previous Argentine World Cup squads.
Sampaoli will have to make do with a rather top-heavy group of 23. The former Chile head coach has got an abundance of quality in attack. But in other positions, the less said, the better. Plus, they’re the oldest squad in the competition at 29 years, six months and 24 days.
Any side with Leo Messi captaining has got a chance at doing something special. But heavy lies the crown. The burden is great on the Barcelona superstar. However, it always has been.
Despite an embarrassment of riches over the years, the Argentine national team have been ultra-dependent on the 31-year-old to lead them to glory.
And final defeats in Brazil 2014, and two Copa Americas have sometimes been left solely at the feet of arguably the greatest player of all time. At one point, Messi even retired such was the criticism in his homeland.
When the all-time best ever player debate is brought up, comparisons to Diego Maradona’s achievements with the national team are always used against him.
In 1986, Maradona carried Argentina to World Cup glory in Mexico. And he did so with some virtuoso performances. Critics constantly use that as a stick to beat Messi with.
But Argentina definitely have a chance of going deep in this tournament. They’ve a relatively decent group and could easily get as far as the quarter-finals. From that point, anything can happen.
If Sampaoli can harness the quality he does have, and forgo his usual tactical pressing game, La Albiceleste could impress. There’s a half decent spine in the side, with a little bit left in the tank.
Messi will do what Messi does. And with a slice of luck, that could mean glory on July 15th.
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