Story by Ian Watson • Yesterday 11:50 PM
Argentina were a frantic mess for the most part against Mexico and even Lionel Messi was being dragged down. Until he decided to rise above it all and lift La Albiceleste…
Argentina needed to show a reaction on Saturday night to their shock defeat to Saudi Arabia. And they offered one: blind panic. At least until Lionel Messi saved them once again.
Perhaps we should give the Argentines some grace since defeat is not something they have been familiar with of late. Prior to Tuesday, it had been 36 games and over three years since they were last second-best. After watching them face the Saudis and Mexico, it’s a mystery how they got away with it for so long.
That must be the real Argentina, not this one we’ve seen in Qatar. Still, at least there is still time for La Albiceleste to find themselves again and hope remains of Messi being crowned a World Cup winner in his fifth and last finals.
Granted, that hope has dwindled somewhat since before they opened their Group C campaign. Even Messi might struggle to carry this mob without a swift and comprehensive improvement.
That, presumably, was what Lionel Scaloni was seeking when he changed five of his outfield 10 in the wake of their Saudi embarrassment. Alterations were required, no question. But half of his team? It seemed an extreme reaction to the untimely end of a record-equalling undefeated run. If Tuesday’s result was indeed a freak occurrence, it would have made sense to stick with the plan.