I want to start by saying that Messi is a splendid footballer. In fact, he is the only real footballer on Argentina's side.
I have before said that this is the worst Argentina side ever. And I believe this more strongly than ever after having seen a side that doesn't know how to defend and that seemed never to have watched Iceland play (Iceland are a solid side that played as predictably organised as they did during Euro 2016 and during the qualifiers).
And Messi was a mess. I am not only talking about his missed penalty, but also about his attitude; he did not seem a man who wanted to win. Much has been made about him being better than Maradona or not and in my view this misses a point after having seen the match today: Maradona played for the team, but Messi plays for himself. Messi does not understand, like Maradona did, that carrying a team is not about you doing everything, but about making your team-mates better, even if it takes attention away from yourself.
Back in Maradona's day he was as much a star as Messi is today. All eyes were on him and his carrying the team. And he did carry the team, even without having the ball: in many matches Maradona used the fact that all eyes were on him in order to pull back, pull some opposing players along, and thus give space to other skilled Argentinean players. He knew how to use the attention for the best of the team. Messi has no such skill; instead, it seems that Argentinean players have been told that all they need to do is pass it to Messi. Against Iceland is seemed that some otherwise decently skilled players (except the defenders, who do not even deserve to be called defenders) were afraid of taking any initiative of their own, because all initiative is supposed to be done by Messi. And when Messi doesn't perform, nobody is supposed to overshadow him, probably because Messi, as a narcissistic millennial, doesn't want anybody else to overshadow him, even if it may cost the team.
Messi will never do like Maradona, by giving space to other players, because that will overshadow his little own selfish self. That same little selfish self who cannot score on the penalties when it counts.
Argentina are supposed to be a great team, and they would be great if they were not just a one-man team, but a team where the best of each player came to its best (does the best of DiMaria or Aguero come forth???), and not just Lionel Messi's ego.
But Argentina cannot be World Champion. With or without Messi they are simply not good enough. That said, it is a wonder if they want to play and win or lose with honour. As it is now, there is no honour in just always passing the ball to Messi, who clearly does not have the willingness or skills to lift the skills of each of his team-mates; to make a group of players into a team, and not just an attachment to Lionel Messi.
In the meantime, Croatia beat Nigeria 2-0. Croatia are bound to defeat Argentina, and Messi and his attachment will be facing elimination against a Nigerian side that should be much more a team and a group than Messi and his attachments.
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