Lionel Messi came into his third 2018 World Cup hoping to lead Argentina to their third title. The team had a good chance, considering that they’re one of the favorites. But Argentina is off to a disastrous start, drawing in their first match and losing 3-0 reto Croatia in the second.
This now sets the stage for Messi — one of the world’s greatest players — to step up and save his team. The 31-year-old doesn’t have many more Cups left, meaning he can’t let this one slip by.
Argentina must beat Nigeria (1-0-1, 3 points) to have any shot at advancing out of Group D. This task becomes infinitely harder when considering that La Albiceleste reportedly tried getting their manager fired after the Croatia loss. But it’s still something that Messi must help his squad do from a legacy perspective.
Messi Hasn’t Done Much in 2018 World Cup
The case can be made for Lionel Messi being the world’s greatest footballer. However, this case becomes more difficult to push if he can’t step up on soccer’s biggest stage.
A look at his competition only makes matters worse. Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, has scored four goals in group play. Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku has done the same. An injured Neymar has one goal for Brazil. Germany’s Toni Kroos scored a clutch goal when his team needed it most.
Messi, on the other hand, has yet to find the net. His team’s record so far doesn’t inspire much confidence either. If Argentina exits Russia without getting to the knockout rounds, it would mark a serious humiliation for both Messi and his team.
Beyond the embarrassment, it would only heighten opinions that his star fades in major international matches. Case in point: Messi’s only international medal came 10 years ago at the 2008 Summer Olympics.
He did help lead his team to the 2014 World Cup final four. But Messi was relatively quiet en route to a 1-0 loss to the eventual champion Germany.
Further misses include the Copa America finals in 2007, 2015, and 2016. The latter was especially painful, because Messi missed a penalty kick in a shootout against Chile.
Goal of Leading Argentina to Victory at 2018 Cup Is Fading
Lionel Messi stunned the football world after announcing his retirement following the penalty kick miss against Chile. However, he unretired with the goal of leading La Albiceleste to a World Cup title.
He made good on this dream leading up to the 2018 World Cup. Messi’s hat trick in the final qualifier against Ecuador sealed Argentina’s trip to Russia.
But sometimes fans only remember you for your latest exploits. And Messi missing a crucial penalty in a 1-1 draw against Iceland is a haunting memory. He also didn’t get anything going in the 3-0 defeat to Croatia.
Messi will be 35 when the 2022 World Cup takes place in Qatar. Therefore, this is likely the last chance that he has to be the best player on Argentina’s Cup roster.
The talent is still there right now. Messi is a five-time Golden Ball winner who’s scored 552 goals for Barcelona. He’s also found the net 64 times in international matches.
The entire team must step up against Nigeria. This much is clear from how easily Croatia found holes in the defense. But Messi also needs to put pressure on the Nigerians to ensure that his team has the best-possible chance to win.
Argentina vs Nigeria World Cup Odds
Here are the odds from GTBets on Argentina’s last group match against Nigeria:
- June 26 at 2:00pm EST
- Argentina -0.5 (-200); moneyline -200
- Nigeria +0.5 (+155); moneyline +500
- Draw +345
- Over 2.5 (-143)
- Under 2.5 (+110)
Argentina is favored to win this match. But they haven’t looked good against either Iceland and Croatia, both teams they were favored to beat. That said, it’ll be interesting to see what they do against Nigeria.