Argentina has not won a trophy since the 1993 Copa America. It lost the last two finals of the tournament to Chile, in 2015 and 2016. It also lost the 2014 World Cup final to Germany. This year’s Copa America has commenced in Brazil and that may be the final decider for Lionel Messi’s international career….Well he may just summon courage to attend Qatar 2022 World Cup party.
Messi’s international return didn’t do much to help Argentina regain top form when he featured for the first time since the 2018 World Cup but couldn’t stop his team losing 3-1 to Venezuela in a friendly.
Recall that the Argentina skipper has twice called it quit with the national team, twice he was begged to return and twice he ended in futility…Pundits say, the Copa America tournament this June may seal Messi’s departure from the Albicesete as a poor run or dismal outing will naturally control the exit door for him to say a third and final goodbye….Yes, goodbye for the last time!
Already the scathing remarks of Argentine legend Diego Armando Maradona after the 3-1 defeat to Venezuela did not go down well with Messi. But it is believed that he may need to prove a point to his critics especially Maradona who though has been a huge source of encouragement for him before the rampaging Venezuelans came calling in that friendly.
May be Messi will put this latest defeat behind him after all, it is a mere friendly. He may just have to focus on the Copa America in Brazil and step up his form to ensure he leads Argentina to victory, thus breaking this jinx. This tournament could just be the tonic and magic to turn around the misfortunes of Messi and gang in the national team and possibly put them on a good stead to win the World Cup in Qatar.
That Messi has not won any major trophy at international level still hunts his career like a stubborn ghost. It is like a leech on his skin. Trophies like the Copa America which he lost twice in succession and the World Cup separates him from Maradona who is hero-worshipped in Argentina.
Time is fast ticking for Messi. He may end his career without an international trophy despite a huge cabinet of medals and trophies at club level. If he ends it this way, he becomes like every other average player or like those who made big marks at club leve l but failed to replicate their achievements at the national team given that their teams do not have top quality players. George Weah is a typical example of this category of players.
But in Messi’s case, his generation of players and class in the national team are high profile players who can hold their own anywhere and anytime. This is why many wonder the fate that has befallen Messi and Gang. May be Messi should hold on a little even if he fails to lead Argentina to glory in this Copa America. He may need to tarry a while to play his last World Cup in Qatar if Argentina qualifies.
Who knows? Perhaps, motherluck may smile on him. Recall that the last generation of Elephanrs of Cote ‘d’Ivoire won the AFCON when team captain, Didier Drogba bowed out. Many say if Drogba had been patient a little, he would have been part of history. But the big elephant was tired of trying and playing second fiddle to other nations in AFCON.
Messi may need some more patience and perseverance to break this jinx especially now that CR7 has won the UEFA Nations League to add to his European Championship title which adds to Messi’s pressure.
By Desmond Ekwueme