The last time Leo Messi looked this fresh for Argentina was during the group stages of the 2014 World Cup. The team went on to reach the final only to lose to Germany in the dying minutes and a year later, they lost the Copa América to Chile. Luckily enough, Messi didn’t have to wait for another four years to get the chance to finally win silverware with his country, given that he has just helped his team reach a third consecutive final, this time in the Copa América Centenario.
To give credit when its due, even though Messi is on fire in this tournament, his teammates are finally helping him out.
Messi was unlucky in both previous finals with Gonzalo Higuaín missing an unmissable chance in the opening minutes against Germany and another against Chile a year later, Rodrigo Palacio’s missed chances, and Leo’s own shot that went inches wide from goal. However, Messi looks like he is in it to win it this time around, scoring five goals and assisting another four, he is at the top of his game at the moment. He broke Gabriel Batistuta’s long standing goal recorded with a sensational free kick during the semi-final against U.S.A. and he looks ready and fresh as ever to take on Chile.
Reaching three finals in three years is an achievement in itself but it would taste sweeter if he managed to pull it off this time and heal that gaping wound. It would act as a perfect gift for the Argentinian people until the 2018 World Cup. It is also Messi’s 29th birthday weekend so wouldn’t it be the best gift he could ask for?
Moreover, Tata Martino has managed to get all his players performing at their best. During the last World Cup and Copa América, it was clear that the team was powerful in defence but were too dependent on Messi in attack. This time however, Higuaín and Ezequiel Lavezzi (to name a few) are finally stepping up to take some weight off of Messi’s shoulder. Needless to say, Ángel Di María has been outstanding in all tournaments but is really unlucky when it comes to finals. After initially receiving the medical green light to feature in this weekend’s final, Di María felt discomfort again and is now a major doubt.
If Argentina manages to pull this one off and finally win the title, it would be a great boost for them going into the 2018 World Cup: they will have broken the deadlock and maybe Messi can sign off on what could probably be his last World Cup with a win.
Go get ’em, Leo!