Can Messi do a Maradona and turn Argentina's saviour?

Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi could not save Argentina against Saudi Arabia. Photo: IANS/Suman Chattopadhyay

In the first-half of Argentina's Group C match against Saudi Arabia at the Lusail Stadium on Tuesday, the fans of La Albiceleste were pinning their hopes on the genius of Lionel Messi. In the second-half though, they wished there was someone like Diego Maradona to pull the team out of the rut. The former Argentine great, who cheered on the team from the stands at Russia 2018, is no longer with them. And Messi could not replicate his club magic and lift their spirits.

Messi was in a buoyant mood after he netted the penalty in the 10th minute, but as Argentina failed to score another goal in the first-half, he looked a little rattled. When he returned to the pitch after the break, there was no spring in his steps. He wore a look that was reminiscent of his bland demeanour when Argentina trailed against Croatia in a group-stage tie at Russia 2018.

After the match, we headed to the Mixed Zone, the FIFA-designated area inside the stadium where all accredited media are allowed. Understandably, the journalists from Argentina were disappointed and upset. Although it was their first loss in the last 36 matches under Lionel Scaloni, they had this Sword of Damocles hanging over their head. Argentina's recent wins, including the one against Brazil in the last Copa America final, were not convincing, admitted some journalists from the country.

Everyone was waiting for Messi's arrival at the Mixed Zone. The triumphant Saudi players were the first to come. After some time, the Argentine squad sauntered into the room. Messi seemed in an upbeat mood as he shook hands with some journalists from his country and exchanged pleasantries with them. He gave clear-cut answers to all the questions posed by the scribes.

Definitely, Messi knows how to deal with failures, but it is to be seen whether he can inspire hope in a beleaguered Argentine squad. We will get an answer to that question on November 27 (Saturday), a day after Maradona's second death anniversary, when Argentina take on Mexico in their second match in Group C.

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