Argentina desperately needed a win against Colombia on Tuesday to keep their chances of qualifying for Russia World Cup alive. Back home after a 3-0 humiliating loss against Brazil, La Albiceleste needed a win to remain in the top five of the CONMEBOL standings for world cup qualification. They did just that, beating Colombia 3-0 after an incredible performance by Leo Messi!
Argentina, prior to this match, had won only one out of the seven games that they played without their captain. With Messi, the only game that they lost was against Brazil in the previous matchday. La Albiceleste desperately needed a win and that is when their skipper stepped in!
Messi rose to the occasion scoring from an incredible free-kick and assisting the other goals of Pratto and Di Maria. A Messi-inspired Argentina not only brushed past Colombia in a convincing manner, but also rose to fifth spot in the standings.
Messi’s performance was absolutely magical! He scored from a ridiculous free-kick in the 10th minute of the match. The jaw-dropping free-kick left everyone in awe! But the skipper did stop there. He spotted Pratto’s run inside the d-box of Colombia and sent an inch-perfect ball to Pratto, who successfully headed in the second goal in the 22nd minute.
The night however, was far from over for La Pulga. He won the ball back in the corner area in the 84th minute and raced to the d-box before sending the ball towards Higuain. Higuain failed to get the first touch on the ball but Di Maria was there to slot it home. 3-0 and the match was done and dusted there!Argentina climbed to the fifth spot in the CONMEBOL standings
The result was a huge boost to Argentina’s morale after a disappointing run of games that saw them go without a win for four games. Messi’s emergence was a sigh of relief for the team and he proved again why his presence was essential for the team on Tuesday. The five-time Ballon d’Or winner made light work of the Colombian defense and was a constant threat on the pitch. Argentina should be happy to see this Messi playing; more such displays and their spot in the 2018 world cup will be guaranteed.
However, what happened after the match invigorated the confidence and unity of the team. Messi led the whole team to the post-match press conference and spoke on behalf of everyone. He remarked,
‘We have made the decision not to talk to the press any more, obviously you know why! There were a lot of accusations, a lot of disrespect, and the accusations they made against ‘Pocho’ (Lavezzi) are very serious.We know that most of you guys don’t play that game of disrespect. We can be criticized if we lose, or win, or if we play well or badly. But this is getting into personal lives. If we don’t put a stop to it now, we’ll never stop it.’
Lavezzi is determined to take legal actions following the allegations made by Gabriel Anello of Radio Mitre, who accused him of smoking in the team camp. This display of unity and resilience from the team proves that they are far from being written off!
Messi has risen to the occasion, leading the team both on and off field. His performance was outstanding and post-match, the way he dealt with the media by talking on behalf of the team showed his true leadership skills, something he normally does not display. But when circumstances demanded it, he did not shy away.
The team needs to perform as a unit and not rely blindly upon Messi. Argentina have six matches left in the qualification round. If they stick together as a unit just like they did during their 2014 world cup campaign, better things await them. They will face Chile next year for their upcoming qualifier. A win will see Argentina overtake Chile for the fourth spot.
Although it is too early to predict anything, the collective unity of the team, if preserved, will see them go farther in the qualifiers. The anchor of the ship will undoubtedly be Messi, who, on his day, can change the course of any game. Nonetheless, he needs adequate assistance and support from his teammates. Otherwise, Argentina’s hunt for a world cup glory will extend for four more years!