Football

Lionel Messi doesn't deserve Argentina criticism

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In the wake of the disappointment of losing the Copa America final, plenty of unfair criticism has been directed towards country captain Lionel Messi. The most startling of these criticisms was that made by Diego Maradona.

Argentina's biggest soccer star and someone that even Messi admires, questioned why La Pulga was unable to dominate as he does for Barcelona.

"It's logical that he's come in for flak, it's easy to explain," he said.

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"We've got the best player in the world, who goes and scores four goals against Real Sociedad, and then he comes here and doesn't touch the ball

"You're left saying to yourself, 'Are you Argentinian or Swedish?'."

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Most Argentines have also spoken in the same vein criticising their national team captain for failing to lead his side to a tournament victory. The team was expected to clinch glory especially after perennial rivals Brazil got eliminated at the quarter-final stage of the tournament.

They were expected to overcome their Chilean opponents especially after dismantling Paraguay in the semi-finals winning 6-1. However the tactical limitations of coach Tata Martino were exploited by Chile who dominated Argentina for most of the match.

Messi had a subdued evening. Compared to previous matches in the tournament he put in a sub par performance even though they could have won it in the dying minutes, after his pass led to a big chance fumbled by Lavezzi and Higuain.

Various factors have prevented Messi from having the same level of success he has enjoyed with his club. Sub-standard coaches, low quality in midfield and under-performing teammates have all made it impossible for the Rosario native to replicate his Barcelona success with the national team. 

At the World Cup in 2006, then coach Jose Pekerman refused to bring on the then 18-year old when it would have been wise to. Argentina eventually lost to Germany on penalties.

At the Copa America 2007 Argentina lost to Brazil in the final with Messi named young player of the tournament. 

In 2010, with Diego Maradona as the national team coach, the team struggled during the qualification for the World Cup. The decision to hire the legendary player proved unwise as the team lacked structure. It was not a surprise when they lost out to Germany in the quarter-finals again. 

The following competition was the 2011 Copa America. As hosts they were expected to win the tournament. Sergio Batista was brought in as head coach. However, they again went out at the quarter final stage, losing out in a penalty shootout to eventual champions Uruguay.

The 2014 World Cup was heralded as the chance for Messi to win the ultimate prize. It was being hosted in South America and Argentina were impressive during the qualifiers. However, they again lost to perennial nemesis Germany in the final despite having the best chances during the game.

Messi was massively criticised for Argentina's failure. Despite facts showing that he had an excellent tournament individually. He finished with four goals and an assist. He was voted man of the match four times, which was the most of any player at the tournament.

He deservedly won the World Cup golden ball and was named in the All Star Team. He created the most chances, made the most successful dribbling runs, the most deliveries into the box and the most throughballs of any player during the tournament. 

The 2015 Copa America was a very crucial one to Messi and his teammates. They regarded it as the opportunity to make up for that loss in Brazil and they almost had it. Even with a sub standard coach, Argentina got to the final due to Messi and not the other way round. But the picture that has being painted about Messi's tournament is that he under-performed.

However again a closer look reveals that individually his tournament was a good one. Winning several man of the match swards, creating the most chances, completing the most dribbles and finishing as the joint highest assister. He was again player of the tournament - an award which he rejected, leaving it vacant.

The only reason he did not end the tournament with the Copa America trophy in his hands is because his teammates failed to step up when he needed them needed to - he was the only who scored his penalty in the shoot-out.

Diego Maradona's 1986 World Cup win will continue to be to used as a measure for Messi, but the difference between both players is that while Maradona's teammates stepped up when he was marked out of the game, Messi's continue to wilt under pressure.

Messi stands alone with his club career success when compared to the likes of Pele and Maradona and they are not regarded any less for that. Messi deserves better treatment from his countrymen than he is getting. He might fail to win anything for his country, but is surely not for a lack of effort.

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Topics:
Lionel Messi
World Cup
Barcelona
Argentina Football
Football

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