Can Messi Make His World Cup Dream Come True?
Messi To Make Dream Come True
From Champions League titles through to multiple La Liga wins and Ballon d'Or awards, Lionel Messi has achieved almost everything in world football.
A World Cup title has always eluded the 30-year old, however, with Russia 2018 being his last chance to achieve ultimate success on the global stage in prime playing form. While Lionel Messi is already known by many as the greatest player of all time, a win in Russia would cement this status and have everyone else playing catch-up for generations to come.
Messi has not had the best of luck when it comes to international football, having been on the losing side in four finals with Argentina. Along with losing the 2014 World Cup final against Germany in Brazil, Argentina also lost twice to Chile in the 2015 and 2016 Copa America finals, and also to Brazil in the 2007 Copa.
After his latest loss to Chile, including missing a crucial penalty kick, Messi was so distraught that he strongly implied he was finished with international football.
Messi is so hungry for success on the international stage that he recently said he would trade a Barcelona title for a World Cup. While this might seem like a big statement, when you look at how many titles Barcelona have won in recent years, a single one probably wouldn't be missed.
Since Messi joined the Barcelona A team during the 2003-2004 season, they have won four Champions League titles, three FIFA Club World Cups, three European Super Cups, nine La Liga titles, six Spanish Cups, and seven Spanish Super Cups.
Argentina's Form Going Into Russia 2018
Since their defeat to Germany in 2014, Argentina have had mixed form at best. The Albicelestes lost two consecutive Copa America finals on penalties to Chile and had a qualifying campaign that almost ended in disaster. It wasn't long ago that Argentina looked like they wouldn't even be present at Russia 2018, with a Messi hat-trick against Ecuador eventually booking them into the final 32.
While Argentina managed to finish third in South America behind Brazil and Uruguay, things were looking very shaky there for a long while. Since qualification ended, Argentina's form has not exactly improved, with a massive 6-1 defeat to Spain in March seen by many as an ominous sign of things to come. When Messi is on your side, however, you're always in with a shot. Unlike anyone else in the world, Argentina have a player who is capable of turning any game around.
The Argentina Squad
Argentina have named their 23-man squad for Russia 2018, with new coach Jorge Sampaoli not pulling any real surprises. Mauro Icardi will miss out on a major tournament once again, with Dybala joining Messi, Aguero, and Higuain in the final squad. There are three goalkeepers named in the squad, with Manchester United’s Sergio Romero likely to start and Nahuel Guzman and Geronimo Rulli named as backup keepers.
The backline will almost certainly include Nicolas Otamendi, who could be joined by either Mateo Musacchio or Ramiro Funes Mori in the centre of defence. Gabriel Mercado will probably be the first choice at right back, with Marcos Rojo joining him on the left if fit and Emmanuel Mas being another possibility. Javier Mascherano should take the holding midfield role, with Lucas Biglia, Leandro Paredes, and Ever Banega all fighting it out for the other two spots in the centre of the park.
Up front, Messi will probably be joined by Angel Di Maria and Sergio Aguero, although with so much depth in the forwards, Sampaoli has no shortage of options. Higuain is another fantastic centre forward who could be used instead of Aguero, with Paulo Dybala or Angel Correa possibly chosen instead of Di Maria on the left flank. All in all, Argentina have fantastic depth up front and some great players who are more than capable of lending Messi a hand.
Argentina will face Iceland, Croatia, and Nigeria in a competitive Group D, with Croatia expected to progress along with the Albicelestes. Iceland shouldn't bother Argentina too much, although that's probably what England thought when they were knocked out by the tiny country at Euro 2016.
Croatia will be a big test for Messi and company, with Real Madrid's Luka Modric and Barcelona's Ivan Rakitic operating as one of the best midfields at Russia 2018. Nigeria could also cause some headaches for Argentina, with German coach Gernot Rohr adding a defensive mindset and strong sense of discipline to the Super Eagles.
While Argentina should make it out of Group D comfortably, nothing is certain when it comes to the World Cup. The real competition for the Albicelestes will come in the Round of 16 and beyond, with Germany and Brazil being the big favourites to take the title, and lots of other teams hungry for a win on the global stage. While no one is expecting Argentina to win at Russia 2018, perhaps this lack of expectation is just what Lionel Messi has been waiting for.