Argentina’s humiliating World Cup defeat to Saudi Arabia has repercussions for Messi.
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This is Lionel Messi’s final opportunity. And he’s off to a bad start.
Messi’s saga is one of the most important stories surrounding the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. He is regarded as one of the greatest soccer players of all time. His career with FC Barcelona has been legendary.
Despite this, he has never won a World Cup with his native Argentina.
Messi’s story is often told as that of a child prodigy who rose quickly through the ranks of Barcelona in Spain. But the story of Messi as a young immigrant is less well-known.
Messi’s story is often told as that of a child prodigy who rose quickly through the ranks of Barcelona in Spain. The story of Messi as a young immigrant yearning to return home is a lesser-known one.
Messi grew up in Argentina’s version of the Midwest, the rural province of Santa Fe, in the 1990s. He was a natural athlete even as a child, but he struggled with serious health issues (a hormonal growth deficiency). His family couldn’t afford treatment because his father worked in a steel mill and his mother cleaned houses. As Argentina spiraled into a severe economic depression in the early 2000s, Messi and his father emigrated, along with hundreds of thousands of other Argentines.
Messi received the best soccer education a young boy could ask for in Spain, at FC Barcelona’s legendary academy, La Macia. He chose to play for Argentina’s national team while racking up trophies, titles, and cups for Barcelona’s professional team. This was an example of
Messi received the best soccer education a young boy could ask for in Spain, at FC Barcelona’s legendary academy, La Macia. He chose to play for Argentina’s national team while racking up trophies, titles, and cups for Barcelona’s professional team. This was a watershed moment in his career: Spain wanted him to join them, but he declined. He has frequently spoken of his longing for Argentina and his desire to once again don the blue and white jersey in international competitions.
It’s romantic, but as anyone who has left home knows, returning after a long absence is difficult. Messi’s performance with Argentina’s national team was nothing short of tragic for years. And the worse he played, the more enraged his fans were at home. Fans were curious as to why he performed so well for Barcelona in Europe but so poorly for Argentina. There is a cottage industry of theorists and commentators dedicated to investigating the matter, with theories ranging from Messi’s own identity crisis to the more plausible possibility that Barcelona’s team is simply better at supporting his genius.
The truth is that Messi has spent the majority of his career trying to win with Argentina, struggling to break through.
The truth is that Messi has spent the majority of his career trying to win with Argentina, struggling to win the affection of his own people, and failing miserably.
That all seemed to change under the direction of Argentina’s new coach, Lionel Scaloni, who led the team to a historic victory at La Copa America in 2021 (a major South American Cup). To say that hopes were high for Messi and the Argentina team as they prepared to leave for Qatar is an understatement. The team was widely regarded as a strong contender for advancing further in the tournament. There was also a deadline: Messi, who is now 35 years old, recently announced that this would be his final World Cup.
Argentines awoke early this morning to watch the team make its debut in Qatar against Saudi Arabia. It was widely regarded as a simple victory. But what happened in the next 90 minutes stunned the soccer world: Argentina lost 2-1.
This will be remembered as a historic upset by Saudi Arabia, which was previously regarded as an unimpressive contender.
Of course, it’s about more than just soccer; it always is. What is at stake for Messi is more than just another championship. It’s his chance to become a hero in a country that has always shunned him. It’s his final cup.