Messi on the brink as Argentina looks to save the World Cup

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Before the World Cup began, hopes were high in Argentina that Lionel Messi was ready for a glorious swan song.

The diminutive superstar with magic in his boots insisted he was in good physical shape ahead of what he suggested would be his last bid for World Cup success.

After winning the League 10 times, the Ballon d’Or seven times, the Champions League four times and one Copa América, this trophy is all that is missing from Messi’s enormous collection of personal and collective recognitions.

Argentina entered the tournament on a remarkable 36-match unbeaten run having stunned bitter rival Brazil in their own backyard to win last year’s Copa América.

Pundits and fans from around the world heralded Argentina as one of the favorites, if not the main one.

Argentines allowed themselves to dream: one of the best players the world has ever seen was about to win the biggest prize in soccer.

But Tuesday’s upset 2-1 loss to a more athletic and tactically superior Saudi Arabia has brought them back to earth with a bang.

The reality is that, far from icing an already delicious cake, Messi’s World Cup story may be about to end in ignominious fashion.

The autopsy has already begun in Argentina.

Both experts and football fans speculate whether the ‘Kid’ was really fit or not.

He had missed a couple of group training sessions, following his own separate personal program, due to a bruised calf.

An image went viral on social media of her ankle apparently deformed, even though she was simply wearing an ice pack.

Fingers were even pointed at his club Paris Saint-Germain, apparently for daring to play him week after week instead of wrapping him in cotton so he could make it to the World Cup in the best possible shape to help his country.

– Moving speech –

Manager Lionel Scaloni was also criticized for his perceived inability to boost the Saudis’ high defensive line, as his side were caught offside seven times in the first half.

He was also punished for his inability to break through a stubborn defense that sank further once they took the lead.

However, there was a sobering admission that at 35, Messi might not be as good as he once was.

“He is not injured, but he has several logical ailments given his age and the number of minutes played this season,” the Ole sports newspaper said.

Even so, Messi remains the darling of a nation on which his hopes rest.

Stories of his moving speech to his teammates on the bus after the Saudi Arabia game surfaced quickly.

At training the next day he allegedly told them: “People think this group is not going to abandon them.

“It’s up to us, we know we have no choice (but to win), but we’ve played these kinds of games before, it’s time to lift our heads above the water.”

Messi will have to overcome his poor performance against Saudi Arabia if Argentina is to beat Mexico on Saturday and keep their hopes of progress alive.

bc/jc

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