It seems written in the stars. After one scintillating performance after another, Lionel Messi stands atop the footballing world once more. This time, he has another shot at the trophy that has eluded him his whole career.
Messi has built up a trophy cabinet that can never truly be rivaled. While trophies can only ever paint a portion of a picture, winning the World Cup would help complete Messi’s.
After stumbling out of the gates, Argentina has found their form and marched to the final. Taking down quality opponents on the way, they have played beautiful soccer. Now, they find themselves back in the final.
There could have only ever been one man responsible for this run. Messi continues to put together one of the greatest World Cup performances. Mesmerizing dribbles and tantalizing passes have been the norm for the little magician.
With a team ready to die for him, Messi has found a recipe for success. Despite a career full of historic nights, Sunday will be the biggest night of the GOAT’s career.
Opening up their World Cup run with a loss to Saudi Arabia could have killed Argentina. However, Messi and the team refused to die.
Saudi Arabia came out of nowhere to beat Argentina and laid bare some of the underlying issues of this team. The midfield failed to produce quality chances, but showed an ability to defend at a high level. While the defense was a calamity, the fullback pairings didn’t make too much sense and the centerbacks failed to stop the Saudis.
Once the memes and concerns tampered down, Argentina laid waste to the rest of their group. Convincingly beating a terrible Mexican side, despite the best efforts of Memo Ochoa. Poland would also be but a guaranteed win, as the South Americans topped the group.
The knockout stages brought out both the concerns and praises of what this side really is. A dominant offense that can be taken down with a lackadaisical defense.
Despite dominating Australia, they constantly allowed the Australians back into the game. They would continue to allow their opponents back into the game against the Dutch. While Argentina were the deserved winners, their performance against the Dutch raised even more questions.
After two unconvincing performances, Argentina looked like world beaters against 2018 finalists Croatia. Julián Álvarez played out of his mind with the Argentinian midfield found ways to slow down Modrić. However, it really was Messi’s magic that made the ultimate difference.
France will be the ultimate test for Argentina, as they have the pieces to stifle this side. Every member of this team will have to play the game of their careers Sunday night.
While Ronaldo languished on the bench, Messi carried his country’s hopes on his backs. With another incredible World Cup performance, he may have put the GOAT conversation to bed.
Across this tournament, Messi has delivered some of the best moments of a controversial event. Despite entering the twilight of his career, he is determined to make this World Cup his own.
In a way, Messi’s mesmerizing assist to Nahuel Molina is the perfect encapsulation of his tournament. The mastery he showed in that moment was that of an artist that has perfected his craft to a level that is unmatched. That assist will forever go down in World Cup history.
With a slight feint towards Nathan Aké, Messi had his defender in his hands. No matter what Aké could have tried in that moment, he was in Messi’s trance. In that moment, he felt what all fans feel when they watch that magician.
Molina darted towards the box, finding ample space behind the Dutch backline. That run begged for a perfectly weighted ball to open up the game for Argentina. While many top class players could make a pass like that, only Messi could make it so beautiful.
With a deft touch, Messi froze time to cut the ball across his body and between the Dutch defenders. At that point, no one could stop that ball from reaching Molina. The defenders could have prayed to any God and none of them could have saved them from Messi.
Messi’s career resume doesn’t need a World Cup, as he has put together a career that will never be matched. However, winning this trophy may put him above Maradona in the eyes of many Argentinians.
The World Cup is the greatest stage in all sports and Messi is putting together an Oscar worthy performance. While he did reach the final in 2014, this is truly Messi’s best performance at a World Cup. Even if he doesn’t win the big trophy, his play has demanded the World to recognize him as the GOAT.
Featured image: Reuters