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Why Gerardo Martino may be wrong in defending Messi and Argentina

Coach Martino can sit and look at the statistics which do prove that his best players go missing and fail to bring their A-game to the pitch for their country. Whereas the same players, are winning trebles and doubles with their clubs.

Gerardo Martino will include Messi for  the friendly against Mexico

With Argentina coach Gerardo Martino saying that he would have stopped playing for Argentina if he was Lionel Messi, the criticism of Lionel Messi and his Argentine teammates may well be justified. Talking to Fox Sports in Argentina, Martino defended the four-time World Player of the Year and said that Messi will remain an integral part of his squad in the future.

Speaking for the first time since Argentina’s defeat at the hands of Chile in the Copa America final, Martino added that he will include Messi in his squad for the friendly against Mexico on September 8, but he wasn’t sure if Messi will turn up.

After the defeat to Chile in the final, Messi and his side attracted huge criticism for not being able to win any silverware and not living upto the expectations of the Argentina fans. And Maradona, who described Messi as “the best in the world who scores four against Real Sociedad and then comes here (at Copa America) and does nothing.” Maradona has widely criticized his successor and his teammates since he was sacked as the Argentina coach after a disastrous 2010 FIFA World Cup.

With Martino blaming the fans and the media for leading a torrent of abuse for Messi and his side, we look at how the Albiceleste have performed recently and how justified is the criticism they face after each defeat.

A country with jewels

A team which has boasted the likes of Lionel Messi, Carlos Tevez, Riquelme, Esteban Cambiasso, Javier Mascherano, Angel Di Maria, Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Marcos Rojo, Javier Pastore, Pablo Zabaleta, Martin Demichelis, Javier Zanetti, it is difficult to digest that they haven’t been able to win anything for their country in the past 23 years, Argentina has failed to win any International major title except for the two Olympic Gold medals they won in 2004 and 2008.

Since winning the 1992 Copa America in Ecuador, La Selección have failed to win a single title, having participated in:


7 Copa Americas 1995, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2007, 2011, 2015
2 Confederations Cups 1995, 2005
6 World Cups 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010, 2014

For a country like Argentina, who are considered as giants in the footballing world, who have produced players like Maradona and Messi, it is sad to see how the best of these players fail to deliver for them. We remember how they were considered favourites in the 2006 World Cup but choked against hosts Germany in the quarterfinals. With a lot of pressure and expectations riding on them, Argentina have choked time and again when it came to the knockout phase of the tournaments.

In the 2014 World Cup Final and the just concluded 2015 Copa America, they were more organized and smart in the knockout phases until the final. Mario Goetze’s extra-time winner or Alexis Sachez’s final penalty to win the shootout, Messi and company failed to bring smiles on the millions of fans around the world.

The last big tournament which Argentina won was the 1992 Copa America, where they won only 3 out of the seven games they played and drew the rest four. Champions do not draw, champions win, and win it convincingly. The story for the Latin American giants has been the same for over two decades now.

Messi and co had to settle for the runners-up medal at the 2014 World Cup

Messi had his missing moments in big games

To defend this claim, here are some stats that prove that even when Barcelona are under pressure, and have lost, Messi hasn’t performed. These stats represent the knockout stages of competitions where Barcelona and Argentina have been knocked out and how many goals Messi has scored:


#

Season

Competition

Opponent

Messi goals

Team goals

Opponent goals

1

2005/06

Champions League

Chelsea

0

2

1

2

2005/06

Champions League

Chelsea

0

1

1

3

2005/06

World Cup

Mexico

0

2

1

4

2006/07

Champions League

Liverpool

0

1

2

5

2006/07

Champions League

Liverpool

0

1

0

6

2006/07

Copa America

Brazil

0

0

3

7

2007/08

Champions League

Man United

0

0

0

8

2007/08

Champions League

Man United

0

0

1

9

2008/09

Champions League

Man United

1

2

0

10

2009/10

Champions League

Inter Milan

0

1

3

11

2009/10

Champions League

Inter Milan

0

1

0

12

2009/10

World Cup

Germany

0

0

4

13

2010/11

Champions League

Man United

1

3

0

14

2010/11

Copa America

Uruguay

0

1

1

15

2011/12

Champions League

Chelsea

0

0

1

16

2011/12

Champions League

Chelsea

0*

2

2

17

2012/13

Champions League

FC Bayern

0

0

4

18 2012/13 Copa del Rey Real Madrid 0 1

1

19 2012/13 Copa del Rey Real Madrid 0 1 3
20 2013/14 Champions League Atletico Madrid 0 1 1
21 2013/14 Champions League Atletico Madrid 0 0 1
22 2013/14 Copa del Rey Real Madrid 0 1 2
23 2014 FIFA World Cup Germany 0 0 1
24 2015 Copa America Chile 0 0 0

Total

2

21

33

* missed a penalty in this match

So, the stats show that Messi has scored only twice in these 24 matches where Barcelona and Argentina have lost or have been knocked out. It would also indicate that Barcelona is over dependent on Messi.

But Argentina boasts of players like Aguero and Di Maria too, who are proven match winners. The point is, all these players go missing when it comes to playing for their national side. Is it because most of the first team players are regulars at their respective clubs and have won almost every club competition there is?

This is a question that needs to be answered by the Argentine FA and the players need to be told to replicate their club form for their country as well. In the recent times, Messi has put in performances for his country but they haven’t been decisive enough like he has been for Barca.

It’s the same situation for his teammates also. Aguero, Di Maria, Pastore, Demichelis, all of these men have been crowned champions with their clubs. Then why do they falter and perform below par at the highest level?

Coach Martino can sit and look at the statistics which do prove that his best players go missing and fail to bring their A-game to the pitch for their country. Whereas the same players, are winning trebles and doubles with their clubs. It is not even a question of fatigue as that isn’t acceptable at the professional level, especially when representing your nation. The question is about intensity.

Only time can tell whether Messi and Argentina can prove their critics wrong by winning the elusive World Cup in Russia, or maybe they are really one of the biggest underperformers in football history.

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