In purgatory: Messi and Argentina’s last shot for World Cup survival

Argentina Messi Croatia World Cup

Argentina and Messi – They never make it easy for themselves, don’t they.

La Albiceleste, their national football team, led by their diminutive yet massively talented, larger than life, supposed saviour Lionel Messi, just barely bundled through World Cup qualification within the highlands of Equador on the shoulders of their “messiah” against tall odds.

They did qualify spectacularly thanks to their talisman but that was already way in the past.

Fast forward to their first assignment in the biggest stage against Iceland, and they have been lacklustre, only getting a draw and with Messi seeing his penalty kick spectacularly saved by Hannes Halldorsson.

For their second match, a forecasted nail-biter against the lethal Croatians, which Argentina were expected to come up with a much better performance with Messi leading the pack, actually ended up much worse than their first match being tagged as losers off a three-nil scoreline.

It was thorough, and comprehensive by Croatia’s Vatreni (The Blazers). La Albiceleste have been set ablaze and well-done burnt, and with that, they needed fortune’s intervention which is for Nigeria to win against Iceland just for the Latin Americans’ participation in the World Cup to continue.

At that point onwards they needed an external helping hand – a glimmer of hope. And as if the football gods are playing with the South American nation that treats football not just as a religion, but also something of the supernatural, that hope and wish were granted as Nigeria’s Super Eagles swooped down on the Vikings by two goals to nil.

Talk about luck for a squad that almost slid out towards the path of damnation and disgrace.

Now that same team that helped them stay barely breathing for another shot at the biggest prize in world football is going up against them up next.

It’s going to be Argentina’s last chance – their last shot for significance this 2018 and Head Coach Jorge Sampaoli is still in the midst of finding his way through the darkness in search of the right setup from his collection of stars in his task to be able to finally come up with a team – a real one.

It shouldn’t be about Messi this time anymore. No matter how immense his powers and abilities are, he’s been a marked man in the last matches and the pressure seemed to unsettle the star.

A saved penalty kick in the first match, and another mis-kicked volley that was also saved in the second, they just weren’t enough. Their supposed main man is slowly getting extinguished, the other players need to step up and be the next hero.

It’s time for the ARGonauts to provide the true support for their biggest leader and most celebrated hero in this arduous journey and they’re still just in the early part of their perilous path.

But Sampaoli still needs to come up with a potent squad. Angel Di Maria was not in the lineup against Croatia and that made the team devoid of creativity from the flanks. He definitely needs to be back in the fray.

Paulo Dybala, a substitute in the second match, had been enterprising from range on a few occasions which was a faint ray of light and something that was desperately needed at a time when the rest of La Albiceleste were already running like headless chickens – already out of options – against the Eastern Europeans. La Joya should definitely start.

At this point, there is no time to experiment and shuffle anymore, Sampaoli and the Argentines should treat this coming match against Nigeria as their last hurrah no matter what the result will be, and for that result to play in their favour, the coach should come up with a collective of players who have the balls to create an play for each other. It’s their last roll of the dice.

Fortune had been very much merciful to them after these two games already. It definitely won’t be the case the third time around. It’s time for Argentina to make their own destiny and seize it.

Time to put the idea of Messi as a sole saviour to the side and think about Argentina as a collective – as a real team – La Seleccion.

This is football, and there are ten more bodies on the pitch fighting in their side. The management and players should be reminded by that.

They should realise that it’s a battle between heroes and not a duel between gods.