The darkest moments of Lionel Messi’s Argentine career began with a lonely walk. He tore himself out of the line of tense teammates, shoulder to shoulder, and pushed his way into the searing floodlights. It was the final chapter of a wild night, Argentina’s first attempt at a penalty after a 120-minute loss. And with every agonizingly slow step, from midfield to penalties, Messi’s magic limbs were shackled by pressure.
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It was June 26, 2016, six years before he was in the spotlight here at the Football World Cup. And that night in New Jersey, with a smaller trophy within reach, he looked at the gate with a pained squint. A few seconds later he threw the ball over the crossbar. He grabbed his shirt with both hands and tugged violently. He grimaced as he returned to midfield and covered his face in horror.
Messi was broken, as his gran amigo Sergio Aguero later said, after Argentina lost the Copa América final. This is the worst thing I have ever seen, Aguero said. Messi used the dugout and supporting teammates to keep his frantic body upright. When the clock struck midnight, he left the national team. I tried so hard to become champion with Argentina, but it didn’t happen, I couldn’t do it, he said. The mission and its crushing weight was just not for me.
It was all the context for his last lone walk from midfield to another penalty, to another searing spotlight, to another first try after another 120-minute run here on another crazy night, this time in the World Cup quarter-finals. This time, when the pressure hit him early Saturday, Messi ignored it. Because this time, in his last Football World Cup, Messi has changed.
He fixed his eyes on the ball and with the calmness of a shy child in Rosario Park, surrounded by brothers, sisters and cousins, he deceived the Dutch goalkeeper and put the Argentina national team ahead. In three unforgettable hours at the Lusail stadium, relentless play, 17 yellow cards and incessant noise, he took Argentina to the semi-finals with a blaze of brilliance, with limbs that are no longer obsessed with pressure, because, as Argentine legend Jorge Valdano recently said: He freed.
For years, as the Argentine games turned into barbaric madhouses, they often devoured Messi and his magic. But here and now, feeling more experienced and mature, he not only participated in Friday’s pogrom; he rose above it. He scored a goal and celebrated with his arms outstretched, then waltzed to the Netherlands bench and stood there for a couple of iconic seconds, palms wide at the sides of his ears.
“I felt disrespected by [Netherlands coach Louis] Van Gaal after his comments before the game, Messi said after the game. And some Dutch players talked too much during the game.”
He answered not only with his mouth, but also with winking toes. He lowered his shoulder to shake the defenders. Amidst the furious traffic and constant noise, he remained serene. He walked leisurely, looking for space, as he does more often than anyone else in modern football, turning a trait usually associated with laziness into a superpower.
At 34 minutes, he almost stopped for a few moments, surveying and analyzing the chaos around him before he discovered space, received the ball, and ascended to another planet. He drove away from the two Dutchmen, but saw that six more were obstructing him, so he took to the sky for a bird’s eye view and chose an extraterrestrial passage that could only be found via satellite.
His first-half touches and passing weight were almost perfect. His penalty kick in the second half, converted after a rough attempt by goalkeeper Andries Noppert, who failed to bother him, was accurate.
Messi spent the entire match as if in his element this is how he felt all this and last month. He gained peace of mind and perspective. He learned to reflect, to make more sense of the little details, as he said; to enjoy moments on the biggest sports scene, not to shy away from them. And with the America’s Cup title finally in tow, he’s been feeling relaxed and quieter since last summer, which allows us to work differently without worry, he said.
In this way, the pressure that is still constantly present is no longer an obstacle. Messi came out from under him a different person – and, accordingly, a different player, incomparable, similar only to himself at the age of 20 from Barcelona. For more know about Football World Cup Tickets.
In the past, s***housery—a football term for devious and ugly foul play turned it into a stripped-down sideshow. On Friday and into the wee hours of Saturday, he was the protagonist of the apartment building. Amid the turmoil that followed the end of the shootout, after other Argentine players rubbed defeat into the faces of broken opponents, Messi sought out the Dutch coaches and raised his right hand, snapping four fingers together in a talking motion, taunting them.
Shortly after this collision, during a TV interview, he saw Dutch striker Wout Weghorst walking by. What are you looking at, bobo? he barked, using the Spanish word for fool.
Messi was celebrating wildly, his main energy was more joyful than relieved. He spoke to reporters kindly and intelligibly, like the whole tournament. Now he’s a stone’s throw away from the semi-finals against Croatia who beat him four years ago in Russia, and who are likely to grab him, break him, and hack him like the Dutch did. And perhaps the Croats will talk too. If so, so much the better.
“I think Leo felt a bit attacked, Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni said after Friday’s game. And [he] has demonstrated that he is the best of all time.”
Josip Juranovic blanks Celtic transfer exit as Croatia star sends warning to Lionel Messi and Argentina
The right-back club are back in the Premier League this week, but their focus is on the top prize in Qatar. Josip Juranovic avoids any talk of his future as he sets about making more special Football World Cup memories with Croatia.
The Celtic star prepares for the semi-final against Argentina on Tuesday night in Qatar. Djuranovich received huge praise after his performance against Brazil when his team eliminated the favorites before the tournament in the final eight stage. The 27-year-old is generating interest from across Europe as Celtic’s raid to sign Canadian star Alistair Johnston opens the door to a potential move in January.
But right now, Đuranović is only looking at the game’s biggest prize, as he said, Honestly, I haven’t read what has been written since we arrived. We’re just focused on the national team. I even told my agent not to send me anything, it doesn’t interest me at all now. I want to do something for myself, my future sons and daughters, I want to tell them the story of what we have done and be proud of them.
“I may not be a player worth 20-30 million euros, but you should know one thing. I never gave up, even when I was at Hajduk and Dubrava, neither Celtic nor Croatia. My parents taught me to look ahead. Life tells strange stories, I stuck to my point of view that I needed to prove myself on the field.”
Đuranović believes he is playing alongside once-in-a-lifetime Croatian heroes, and the Celtic ace is convinced that the ultra-talented Zlatko Dalic family fears nothing from Lionel Messi and Argentina. Djuranovic is full of faith ahead of the last four and is enjoying playing alongside national team icons such as Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic.
“He said, ‘The secret is that we are all a real family and we stick together. We breathe for each other from the first to the last minute, and this is the secret of our success. To be honest, we should not be afraid of anyone and should look at ourselves. Let’s look at the analysis with the coach and decide how and what to play. Luka, Marcelo and Mateo are the best Croatian midfielders, I don’t know when it will happen again. Passing the ball to them is safer than your money in the bank, it’s easier to play with.”
I’m lucky enough to share a dressing room with such players and buy that knowledge, I’m very happy to be there. We want to make our people happy, to come home proud and with our heads held high. Argentinians also want that and we are such a small country with a big heart.
Juranovic also praised defensive mate Yosko Guardiola. The RB Leipzig star is in the limelight at Chelsea with £70m transfer figures and he has been a Qatar star. Juranovic said: I had the opportunity to play against him and for my club [in the Champions League]. I’m lost.
“As a person, Yosko is a boy who enjoys every moment, he loves being on the pitch, he loves being on the national team and hanging out with all of us. I expect him to have a great career.”
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