Can Messi lead Argentina to 2018 World Cup Victory?

Photo by Дмитрий Садовников,CC BY

It’s probably safe to say that most people believe Argentina’s chances of winning the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia primarily depend on one thing: the left foot of five-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi. One cannot even begin to comprehend the pressure that the 30-year-old soccer star must be feeling, especially given that this will likely be his last chance to lead Argentina to World Cup glory. The Argentineans haven’t celebrated a World Cup win since 1986 (lead by legendary Diego Maradona), and they haven’t succeeded in winning a major international title since the Copa América in 1993. As such, Messi has received both public and media censure for failing to put an end to the country’s World Cup title drought.

Potential Group D Challenges

At first glance, it might seem that Argentina benefited from a favourable draw in Group D of the World Cup brackets, which pits them against Nigeria, Iceland, and Croatia. However, a more astute analysis leads to the conclusion that Messi’s squad is not entirely safe. Nigeria’s team includes a respectable number of talented and aggressive players, and they easily coasted through a thorny qualifying round. Furthermore, concerns regarding a head-to-head with Nigeria were heightened last November when the Argentines (albeit without Messi) squandered a 2-0 lead to end up losing 4-2 against the Nigerians in a “friendly” match in Krasnodar.

Furthermore, regardless of how they ended up qualifying for this World Cup competition, Croatia should still be recognized as having been one of the most impressive teams at Euro 2016. Also, based on what we witnessed at the Euro 2016 competition, we are all aware that Iceland can pull out stunning performances. In short, for Argentina to emerge victorious from Group D, they should still be of the mindset that they need to perform at their absolute best at each step along the way.

Can Messi Do It Alone?

That being said, it still makes sense that Argentinean fans, and the world at large, still see the national team as having a more-than-viable chance of winning the entire tournament (despite the glaring fact that Messi had to score a hat trick in the last qualifying matchup for his team to qualify). Many see the Argentinean side as having a number of world-class players who are not named “Messi”, including Sergio Aguero, Ever Banega, Gonzalo Higuain and Angel di Maria. However, the team has inexplicably continued to struggle, having faltered at the tail end of three tournament finals in a row. One must wonder whether such devastating experiences have instilled a psychological paranoia that would affect Argentina’s ability to close out the World Cup, despite their having the widely-recognized skills to do so.

Any realist must acknowledge that, notwithstanding the respectable talent of his supporting cast, Argentina has a near-impossible chance of winning the World Cup unless Messi delivers an epic performance. Messi has won nine La Liga titles, four UEFA Champions League titles, and six Copas del Rey, and he lives with the comfort of having throngs of worldwide football fans regard him as the greatest player of this generation—if not ever. However, his own personal pride and quest for historical distinction must leave him with an unquenchable thirst for at least one World Cup victory. And this is what his fans must be counting on – one last attempt at enduring greatness.

The Stakes at Hand, According to Messi

As reported in December, Lionel Messi told TyC Sports that he and his Argentina teammates will “have to disappear” if they fail to take advantage of their “last chance” to win a trophy at the 2018 World Cup. Messi stated, “People are waiting for this group to leave because it has not won for a long time, and those who criticize get tired of always seeing the same faces… I think it’s the last opportunity for this group. There is a lot of excitement”. Messi went on to further declare that Brazil, Spain, France and Germany are all playing at a “higher level” than he and his teammates, but then he also assured fans that there is “time to prepare”.

Maradona’s Doubts

As reported by Beinsports.com in early February, Maradona criticized the depth of talent in the Argentine squad, stating that they have lost their intimidation factor against competing teams. Furthermore, in a May interview with Arab news outlet Abu Dhabi Sport, Maradona continued to express his “many doubts” that his countrymen would even make it beyond the group stage, describing Argentina as “a team that has no experience, that has no leader, that has no game plan…” That being said, Maradona has also gone on record as saying that Messi has nothing to prove to Argentina at the World Cup.

World Cup Betting Challenges for Punters

Considering the foregoing analysis, 2018 might be a particularly challenging year for punters to make World Cup predictions that will yield the biggest payouts. For example, will die-hard Argentina fans playing the Stars 100 million challenge follow their hearts and bet it all on their favourite team, or will they seek to find value elsewhere? Fortunately, several types of wagers abound, including the option of betting on Messi’s individual performance.

Taking into account the foregoing analysis (and much, much more), BetStars has Argentina at 9/1 odds of winning the World Cup title, putting them behind Germany, Brazil, France and Spain. No one can predict the future, but few would bet against Argentina if Messi delivers crowning, career-defining performances. And one significant factor that will make the 2018 World Cup so enthralling is that Messi’s ability to rise to this momentous occasion is entirely possible.

By jamieglencross

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