Rio de Janeiro.
There were no tears from Lionel Messi, the World Cup’s best player but when he arrives in the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires, he will look back and wonder if he squandered the moment to join Diego Maradona among the greatest World Cup winners in the game’s history.
Put through by Gonzalo Higuain in the second half and perfectly onside, Messi went for the far post and altogether missed the target against German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.
Nine out of 10 times, you would have mortgaged your house on Messi burying that kind of chance. He missed. While Higuain and Rodrigo Palacio missed arguably easier chances, it is Messi’s opportunity that will certainly haunt him most seeing that he had full control over it. It was in his grasp.
He has never scored a goal in the knockout stages of a World Cup and had been shut out by Switzerland, Belgium and Holland before the final.
Messi would have wanted to leave an imprint on a special final for different reasons. As an Argentina match-winner at the Maracana, Brazilian football’s spiritual home, Messi would have earned the right to sit on the left hand side of Maradona’s throne.
For some observers, he would have gone as far as surpassing Maradona seeing what he has accomplished at club level.
The 2014 World Cup came at his peak age, 27. Russia 2018 will find him at 31 but it is difficult to see Messi performing at a sustained level of excellence given the wear and tear that awaits him over the next four years of club and country football.
When he was announced to pick the Golden Ball award for the best player of the tournament, Messi strode up the stairs a crestfallen man. That individual honour was of little meaning for the most decorated player of his era.
Why the Fifa technical committee voted him given his fading displays in the latter stages of the World Cup raised eyebrows.
Messi is one of the greatest players of all time, of that there is no need for debate.
But he risks going down in history as the greatest footballer who never won the World Cup. It would be a disputable honour for a star of his calibre having featured for a powerhouse nation like Argentina in at least three World Cups.
The perspective would have been a lot different had he converted that second half opportunity.
SOURCE: Daily Monitor