World Cup 2022: Lionel Messi brings Argentina back to life against Mexico

And suddenly, a roar. Bestial and shared. Like a relief from the field and the stands. The hour mark was over and Argentina was still entangled in fear. Mexico held her in check and a sticky shadow seemed to slowly stretch over the sky and white team.

This sad sharing of points which was announced, after the initial disaster against Saudi Arabia (1-2), was the promise of a suffocating match against Poland next Wednesday. The fear for teammate on this meeting and the feeling of putting his crampons in the void. The Lusail Stadium, and its pretty Qatari lantern shape, seemed set to extinguish the light on Argentine football and tarnish the glory of Lionel Messi.

Because the latter, until then, was mediocre. An adjective that sticks so badly to his number 10. But the ex-Barcelonian was not of much use on the lawn. Weary look and dangling arms. Without influence. He contemplated the disaster of an Albiceleste formation blocked by fear and which made tons on each opposing contact. Even he, the big little man was flashed in full gross and grotesque simulation in the first period. Is this how football giants should leave the stage?

But no. It was all just a bad, not funny story. From the one we tell children to scare them but we stop before the end to replace it with a session of hugs. This stadium which saw, two days earlier, Neymar leave a bit of his ankle and his morale there with Brazil, could not be a star trap.

A goal that revives an entire country

In one second, one but so sublime, Messi changed everything while his people were getting scared. Found by Angel Di Maria, full axis at twenty meters, the Parisian striker strikes from the left. A low shot out of reach of Ochoa (1-0, 64th). His second goal of the competition after his penalty against the Saudis. But there, the jubilation of Messi is immense. He runs, he runs like he’s 18, still no Ballon d’Or on his wardrobe and the world is about to find out. It is not a goal but almost a resuscitation of an entire country. A ball strike like using a defibrillator. In a Lusail Stadium resembling Bombonera, the famous stadium in Buenos Aires, everyone wants to kiss each other. And to dedicate the “One Love” armband to Messi. Because there is only him to re-trigger such love.

Argentina is then transformed. She is not yet in heaven but has just gotten out of hell. Especially since Messi gets his hands dirty to seal the match. It was he who shifted Fernandez, author of the second goal with a hook followed by a magnificent curling shot (2-0, 87th).

Of course, all is not over and the Argentinians, unlike the Blues, will not be able to rotate their squad in the third match against Poland on Wednesday (8 p.m.). But failing to manage the bodies, they have just done themselves a lot of good for their morale and once again become masters of their destiny. If they beat Lewandowski’s teammates, they will qualify. And that could be enough to finish first in Group C and avoid France in the round of 16. A Mbappé-Messi face to face, everyone dreams of it, but not immediately please.

“Léo really wants to succeed in this World Cup”

In a World Cup, there are destinies that can change in a single moment, take a team away from the precipice and put it back in the middle of the ball. Messi brought Argentina back to life. Nothing is of course won for her, but all is no longer lost. And it’s already huge. But he will have to find fluidity in his game, become a real team again and that the other attackers free themselves from their game too focused on provocation and not enough on creation.

“There was no message to send consisting of saying: we have the best player on the planet. Or else this message was sent a long time ago, said Lionel Scaloni, the Argentine coach, with a smile. No, what matters is that Leo really wants to succeed at this World Cup like all of us. »

Long after the Argentinians returned to the locker room, the supporters refused to leave the stadium. Dancing, stamping, screaming. They sang deliverance. They sang of life. They sang Lionel Messi.


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