Lionel Messi was at his scintillating best for Argentina during the 3-0 win over Uruguay.
The Barcelona legend has come under fire in the early weeks of the season for making an underwhelming start to life at Paris Saint-Germain with just one goal in five appearances.
However, the statistics only tell half the story because it’s not as though Messi has been playing poorly throughout the 2021/22 season and his performances for Argentina prove that point well.
Argentina 3-0 Uruguay
Besides, Messi reminded everybody why he’s considered one of the greatest players in history on Sunday night as Argentina swaggered their way to a comfortable victory in World Cup qualifying.
Fellow South American giants Uruguay were swept aside 3-0 with Messi, Rodrigo De Paul and Lautaro Martinez notching the goals to move Argentina to within six points of Brazil.
Messi’s strike happened to be a moment of history, too, as it saw him become the first South American player in history to notch 80 goals on the international stage.
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Messi’s superb performance
And while it might have transpired by way of a pass somehow finding its way beyond Fernando Muslera’s grasp, Messi was by no means riding his luck when it came to all of Argentina’s goals.
That’s because the PSG forward played an underrated role in the Martinez strike that truly put the game to bed, delivering a masterclass in what to do when you’re boxed in by a group of defenders.
Mere seconds before Martinez would eventually arrive at the back post from a De Paul cross, Messi found himself staring at a wall of Uruguay shirts as he attempted to dribble in the penalty area.
Messi’s superb footballing IQ
It looked, for all intents and purposes, to be a complete cul-de-sac, so what did Messi do? Did he try and dribble through all the players? Did he try and slip a mind-boggling pass behind them?
Nope, none of the above, because Messi instead showed superb awareness and footballing IQ to reverse out of the situation, duly creating space for De Paul and opening up the angle for him to pass.
Simple, but effective, so be sure to check out Messi’s superb bit of decision-making below:
Pulling defenders out of position
The Uruguay defenders must have thought they’d hit the jackpot when Messi shifted into reverse gear, but by the time he swept the ball out wide to De Paul, they knew they were in trouble.
It really is the perfect example of how pulling players out of position, which is so often applicable for Messi when his dribbles attract so much resistance, can be just as important as a killer pass.
According to ESPN, Messi reflected on Argentina’s impressive performance by saying: “We played a great game. Everything worked out perfectly.
“Uruguay wait for you and they generate danger. Once we got the first goal we started to find space and the goals appeared.”
So, sure, Messi might not have hit the ground running at PSG, but once you take a step back – just as he did for the De Paul goal – you’ll sense that it’s only a matter of time before the goals rain in.