Lionel Messi and Argentina | What happened to the fairytale?

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Lionel Messi #10 of Argentina looks on before the game winning penalty kick is made during the Copa America Centenario Championship match at MetLife Stadium.

© Gettyimages

Lionel Messi and Argentina | What happened to the fairytale?

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Arun S Kaimal

06/27/2016

A powerful strike into the left corner from Silva marked the third successive loss for Argentina in a final and minutes later, a distraught Messi announced his decision to retire from international football, ending an 11-year fairytale for the Magician with Argentina. Where did it all go wrong?

When Francisco Silva walked towards the penalty spot in the final of the Copa America Centenario on Sunday night, Lionel Messi held his white and sky blue jersey over his eyes in an attempt to stop seeing the inevitable. After all, he had witnessed similar scenes a year ago. A powerful strike into the left corner from Silva marked the third successive loss for Argentina in a final and minutes later, a distraught Messi announced his decision to retire from international football, ending an 11-year fairytale story for the Magician with Argentina.

Where did it all go wrong? Or did it actually go wrong? After all, Messi was predicted to take the La Albiceleste to greater heights than they achieved during the time of another great #10 - Diego Armando Maradona.

113 appearances, 55 goals and the tag of the country’s all-time top goal-scorer. Apart from a major international trophy, the Magician has achieved everything when he wore the white and sky blue jersey. Three major international finals – 2014 World Cup, 2015, and 2016 Copa America – in three years are no mean feat for any footballing nation and Lionel Messi had been an integral part of Argentina’s all three campaigns.

In the World Cup in Brazil, Messi starred for the La Albiceleste with four consecutive man of the match performances to take the team to the final. However, his four goals meant little in the end as Mario Gotze’s 113th-minute winner crowned Germany the champions of the world. A year later, in Chile, Messi evolved into a genuine leader and took the team to yet another final appearance. His three assists in the semi-final also helped Argentina thrash Paraguay 6-1 to enter the final against the host nation. But, once again a failure followed. This time, in the penalty shootout and a Panenka from Alexis Sanchez ended their hopes.

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Another year passed and another Copa America final arrived. Messi started the Centenario tournament on the bench with injuries keeping him out. He came into life and on to the pitch against Panama in the group stages and scored a 19-minute hat-trick, before becoming the all-time highest goal-scorer for his country with a goal against the United States of America in the semi-final. Five goals came from the Magician in the tournament, but the final once again proved to be a giant hurdle.

Also read: World reacts on Twitter as Messi announces retirement from international football

Still, the lack of a major international trophy will be thrown at the 29-year-old every time the discussion about the greatest of all time comes up.

In a sport, in which being the runners-up is regarded as a failure, Lionel Messi and his story with the Argentina national football team will be branded as a disaster. Two penalty shootouts and an extra-time goal changed everything for the 29-year-old, who would have taken the greatest player of all time title if the lottery of penalties had gone his way.

At the end of the day, trying to explain Argentina’s, who arguably have the best attackers in the world, failure to score in 120 minutes of play in three consecutive finals is a futile exercise. Apart from Messi, the team has Higuain, record top-scorer in the Serie A last season, Aguero, arguably the best striker in the English Premier League, and Angel Di Maria, who achieved a treble with Paris Saint Germain last season. Still, the net never moved in the normal time for the World No.1team during all the three finals.

If that was not enough, then the Magician, who can score world class free-kicks from even 30 yards, succumbed under the pressure at the crucial moment. Messi smashed the ball into the crowd at the MetLife stadium to prove to all of us that he is also a mortal. The “so called failure” with Argentina will remain forever a blot on Messi’s career, but who can question his place among the greatest footballers of all time.

 © Gettyimages

The Barcelona man has won everything that is to be won at the club level. Five-time FIFA World Player of the Year, 8 La Liga titles, four Champions League titles – there is no one to match up to the accolades won by the 5ft 7inch genius. But, even after all this, the pressure of international football got to the greatest footballer of the era.

Tears ran down his cheeks as the 29-year-old cried like a baby in front of the whole world. Emotions took over and a decision to retire came out of the blue. Messi was on course to play in the 2018 FIFA World Cup and the 2019 Copa America, but three successive failures in the final under his captaincy may have prompted him to call it a day in Argentina colours. On the other hand, the “disastrous” running of the Argentine FA may also have been part of the decision by the footballing great.

The news about his teammates – Mascherano and Aguero, following suit are up in the air, but when the dust settles, the Magician could come back and guide the La Albiceleste back to the glory in the 2018 FIFA World Cup. After years of seeing Messi in the sky blue and white jersey, every Argentina fan will be hoping for the same.

However, as things stand, this is the end of an era. 11-years of mesmerizing football, tons of goals and lot of tears. An 11-year career which started with a red-card ended with a penalty miss. Maybe, it was not meant to be. 

Also read: Messi Magic | Top 10 moments in Argentina colours

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