Time running out for Messi to end international misery with Argentina
When Lionel Messi lined-up to take Argentina’s first penalty in the eventual Copa America final shoot-out defeat to Chile, the outcome never looked in doubt, but as the skipper trotted back towards his teammates, belief was seemingly low.
Instead, the Barcelona superstar wore a gaze of ‘here we go again’, with the La Albiceleste captain growing more frustrated with each passing spot-kick miss, as Gonzalo Higuain then blazed his effort high and wide.
Following the Napoli striker’s appalling penalty, Messi irritably turned away from his lined-up international teammates in disgust, realising another major trophy had slipped beyond his grasp, even before Ever Banega had his tame attempt saved.
Despite being arguably the best player on the planet, and even more debatably the greatest of all time, Messi is in danger of joining the likes of Johan Cruyff, Eusebio and Zico as an all-time great who missed out on silverware success for their country (10/3 with Coral to lift 2016 Champions League).
The four-time Ballon d’Or winner did star as Argentina secured gold at the 2008 Olympics, but a 22-year wait for a major title continues after the latest Copa defeat, as well as last summer’s World Cup final loss to Germany.
“There’s nothing more painful in football than losing a final,” stated Messi after his Copa America disappointment.
“But I don’t want to leave it any longer to say thank you to everyone who has always supported us and continued to during the tough moments.”
Argentina’s most recent trophy came when former heroes such as Gabriel Batistuta, Fernando Redondo and Diego Simeone helped their country lift the Copa America in 1993, an incredible 22 years ago.
Having hesitantly accepted the Golden Ball at the World Cup, given to the tournament’s most outstanding performer, Messi reportedly turned down the Copa’s version of the award before the presentation ceremony in Santiago.
Messi and this current crop of Argentine stars were expected to take each featured tournament by storm, representing their golden generation, with world class talents Angel Di Maria and Ezequiel Lavezzi among such an incredible roster.
Although, PSG forward Lavezzi was quick to defend his international skipper Messi, claiming the successful Barca superstar will eventually end his Argentina trophy drought.
“At some point Leo [Messi] is going to win something with Argentina,” stated Lavezzi. “Once again we are left with a bitter taste. It hurts because we believed that this was the chance to win something.
“I think that we should continue on this path. We are all very good in terms of the group. We are just missing that little step to achieve something.”
However, Messi is lucky in a sense that the 100th anniversary of the Copa America falls next year, meaning he will have another crack at guiding his nation to victory, while the World Cup in 2018 is another realistic target (8/1 to win).
After a treble triumphing campaign with Barcelona last season, Messi will undoubtedly be challenging for further silverware with the Catalan giants next term, but the 28-year-old is running out of time to end his international misery.