Two legendary careers dented by the PSG duo.
Saturday was a day to forget, especially for the football fans. The world cup for the first time witnessed the departure of two great players- Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, on the very same day. The dreams of reaching the next phase of the knockout phase were shattered as the two-star players were left disgusted and dejected on the field after the game.
In the first match of the day, Argentina, last edition finalist, lost to France. Argentina looked out of sorts from the time they conceded the first goal. Marcos Rojo gave away a penalty and Antoine Griezmann did not shy away from turning it into a goal. The French lead did not last too long, Angel Di Maria’s brilliant goal brought Argentina back on level terms just before half-time. Argentina came from behind just after time, thanks to Gabriel Mercado’s deflection of a shot from Lionel Messi. The lead did not last for a long time as the French right-back Benjamin Pavard equalized with a 'glorious' strike which ended into the left top corner of the Argentine net. It will be fair to say that the goal charged the Frenchmen and from that point, there was no looking back. The pace shown by France was second to none, especially by Kylian Mbappé. The Paris Saint Germain star was quick enough to beat the Argentine defensive line. Kylian Mbappé scored a brace within a matter of three minutes and thus finalizing the fate of Argentina in this World Cup.
Although Argentina came into this world cup with a reputation of the so-called “favorites” and also last edition’s finalist, it was never able to live up to the expectation. The team played a draw against Iceland after which it took a beating from Croatia and then finally won in a do or die situation against the Nigerian team. But the fact that caught everyone’s eye has to be: Jorge Sampaoli’s incapability of managing a national team. Clearly, Jorge Sampaoli failed to recognize what his team had to offer. Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero were benched for a longer part of the tournament, and Paulo Dybala never made it to the starting line-up. It will be fair to say that the team lacked the cutting edge that a team should have for a tournament such as this.
The defensive line lacked a leader among itself, regardless of the fact that Javier Mascherano was present. There was panic at the back; nobody really knew who they were marking or what to do when the ball was shifted wide. It will be apt to say, that the defense was reactive and lacked discipline. The game against France also showed that the Argentine players were not given a chance to play up to their true potential unlike the players of France. Moreover, Argentina was all focussed on playing the ball with Lionel Messi thus making it easy for the Frenchmen to divert their attention towards him, which happened in the match where Lionel Messi was marked by Samuel Umtiti, Paul Pogba, and Blaise Matuidi as soon as he received the ball. The lack of structure and not starting the game with Sergio Aguero or Gonzalo Higuain clearly backfired. Because of that decision, Lionel Messi had to play the false no. 9 role which was a big mistake as the team ultimately ended with no attacking forward since Lionel Messi was forced to play a little deeper than his original position. Furthermore, the intent was missing and they never looked to dominate an opposition like France, known for its counter-attacking style of play. To sum up, Argentina never looked like a team with a mission in hand and thus it was unable to provide a grand farewell to its long-serving master- Lionel Messi.
If it was a disastrous Lionel Messi exit in Kazan, then it was also the day of the departure of his counterpart, Cristiano Ronaldo, in Sochi. It was the Paris Saint Germain regular goal scorer, Edinson Cavani, who inflicted destruction in Sochi. The Uruguayan helped Uruguay to outclass a Ronaldo-centric Portugal by scoring a brace. The Portugal squad looked to change sides every time they got the ball ultimately to cross it to Cristiano Ronaldo waiting for the header in the 30-yard box. In the second half, Portugal kept the ball and created some good move near the box but every time it tried to penetrate inside, it lacked the quality a through ball or a cross that a team would need in order to break an iron clad defensive wall of the Uruguayan side.
Meanwhile, the Portuguese defense always showed weak links throughout the tournament. Talk about Spain’s second goal from the set piece or Edinson Cavani’s goal in which he also had immense space as Portugal were caught by speed, Cavani took his time to get his body into the position in order to put Uruguay ahead of Portugal. Not only this, the defense was also caught on the break, when the deadly duo of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani combined for the first time in the tournament which resulted in a swift break-away first goal of the match.
With both the teams out of the tournament, one question definitely comes to the mind of every football viewer- Is this the end of the road for Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo? Or Will they still wait to play in the next world cup?