The Leo Messi Equation
As the minutes drew to a close in Argentinas opener against Iceland Leo Messi cut an increasingly frustrated figure. Every time he twisted and turned into the precious little space he could find, he found his efforts thwarted. The frustration on the Argentine skipper's face was there for all to see and had been a result of a mostly scrappy game.
In simple terms, nothing in this game went according to the script.
Iceland had gained a reputation as 'Giant Killers' but to get anything against a team with the likes of Messi, Aguero and Di Maria seemed beyond the realms of possibility. Setting aside the apparent gulf in quality between the two teams Argentina came into this with unmatchable footballing heritage behind them.
THE MATCH AS IT HAPPENED.
They were world cup finals regulars and had already won it twice.
Iceland are world debutants. The occasion, however, did not get to them. They almost went ahead in the early minutes, Birkir Brajnson's shot going just wide. Argentina took the lead in the 19th minute with a lovely Kun Aguero pirouette and finish. There would be no Icelandic surrender though, as Alfred Finnbogason slotted home sending Iceland fans into a frenzy.
A ball over the top and a Magnussen foul on Leo Messi lead to a penalty. Now, this was a moment that could live on in Footballing folklore. One of the greatest men to ever grace the game was up against a man who was a part-time film director. If there was ever a time for the fearless to stand up and be counted this was it,
the Icelandic keeper did just that and denied Messi.
The keeper roars in defiance and Messi feels that all too familiar feeling of disappointment. He had been there before with the Albiceleste. He knew what was headed his way.
WHAT COMES NEXT?
For one of the most successful players in European football history, his relations with the national team fans was always a rocky one. They didn't care about his triumphs at Barcelona because all that matters to those back home is what the national team achieves. In a country where there is a church dedicated to Diego Maradona, the 'atomic flea' is yet to match up to his stature.
They believe that a world cup is indeed their birthright and it is the duty if their talisman to guide them there. Even after single-handedly dragging them to Russia Leo is good, but not good enough. The method to crack the Leo Messi equation is eerily similar to what the English national team needs. Get off his back and get behind him. If this is to be Argentina's year, they need to achieve an equilibrium. The fans, The supporting cast, and Jorge Sampaoli, need to be on the same page to shake this game off and look forward. It is impossible in modern football for one player to haul his team to victory. It is also impossible for such one-dimensional sides to ever be successful. Just ask Brazil's 2014 squad.