Messi and the Last Tango in Qatar

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Argentina’s Lionel Messi is the world’s most decorated football player.

Ondrive with Sham Samaroo

(November 17, 2022) – Indisputably the best of his generation, arguably the greatest of all time, Argentina’s Lionel Messi is the world’s most decorated player with a record seven Ballons d’Or (Footballer of the Year Award) including four in a row (2009-2012). Since his debut at age 17, Messi has netted 695 club goals, won 34 trophies with Barcelona including 10 La Liga titles and four Champions League titles. The Argentinian has won just about everything a player could hope for save one, the World Cup. He came closest in 2014 when, almost singlehandedly, he took Argentina to the finals losing 1- 0 to Germany. Argentina squandered a golden opportunity to take the early lead with Messi, playing as a false nine, creating havoc in the German defense. It gifted Higuain a one-on-one with the German keeper, but he made a mess of it. That miss is one of the worst in World Cup play, and one of several misses by Higuain that day.

But if Higuain’s miss in 2014 was ridiculous, Maradona’s goal against England in 1986, the last time Argentina won the Cup, was sublime. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. That goal is considered the greatest solo effort in World Cup play. That was 36 years ago. Argentina’s disappointment at the 2014 final was repeated with back to back losses in Copa America finals: Meaning Argentina had gone 28 years without winning a trophy of any kind. Although these droughts precede Messi, they hang like the twin swords of Damocles around his neck for most of his career. It ultimately led to him briefly retiring from international football. Returning to the national team in 2021, Messi finally ended the 28-year drought at the famed Maracana by defeating Neymar’s Brazil at the Copa America finals. But for many the sword still hangs precariously. For them, only a World Cup win would gain him entry into the pantheon of the all-time greats with the likes of Pele, Maradona, Müller, Charlton, Meazza.

At age 35, Messi knows that this is his last best chance. With 11 goals and 14 assists in 18 games for PSG this season, Messi is up for the challenge. Argentina, too, is arriving in Qatar on a 35-game undefeated run, and is one of the favourites. But the favourite tag brings with it the dangers of complacency, and Messi is cautiously optimistic. He knows only too well that none of this will matter much once the big dance starts on Sunday. Argentina is drawn into the so-called group of death that includes nemesis Mexico, Poland, and Saudi Arabia. A first place finish would set up a round of 16 clash with either defending champions, France, or the dangerous Danes.

As his namesake Lionel Richie tells it: Well, my friends, the time has come, to raise the roof and have some fun. On Tuesday, November 22 Lionel Messi will take to the floor and open the ball (pun intended) in his last tango with Argentina at the World Cup. Starboy is filled with anticipation of seeing Messi in a close embrace with the ball, and a dance full of passion and flirtation: one that will tantalize, mesmerize and finally charm and seduce the most unwilling of partners. People dancing in the street, see the rhythm in their feet. Life is good, wild and sweet. Let the music play on…(Play on, play on, play on…). Feel it in your heart and feel in your soul. Let the (music) game take control…we gonna party all night long…all night…

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The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the position or policy of the THE WEST INDIAN.