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Messi had the chance to write his name in World Cup history

Messi had the chance to write his name in World Cup history

Posted by Juan Gavasa on July 14, 2014

Messi played well enough for 90 minutes as Argentina subdued what most thought would be superior opposition, but when the defining chance came early in the second half he couldn’t take it. 

It was a proper opportunity too, the type he consumes without blinking for Barcelona.

Played in down the inside left channel by Lucas Biglia, Messi suddenly had green space ahead of him.

When he is operating at his instinctive best, these chances fly past goalkeepers so fast they hardly hear them, never mind see them. Top corner, near post, is usually a decent bet.

Here, though, Messi dragged his shot across the goal and wide. The replays made it look better than it was. It lacked conviction and it was never going in.

A goal then and a strangely introverted German side may not have recovered. As it was, the Europeans hauled themselves to extra-time and, once they were there, the reserves of energy afforded them by a semi-final stroll against Brazil became apparent.

Messi’s own father had actually expressed doubts about his son’s ability to maintain a persistent threat deep in to this tournament. According to Messi Snr, his boy had been feeling heavy-legged.

Unsurprisingly, there was little sign of that last night during regulation play. World Cup finals have a habit of providing adrenaline surges.

Beyond that and in to extra-time, though, the 27-year-old began to feel the effects of the great weight he has carried here over the last four weeks, namely his nation's hopes, and an extended semi-final against Holland last Wednesday.

On the way to the stadium here yesterday, the Argentina supporters crammed on to Rio's metro system and sang songs in his honour. This, they felt sure, was to be his night, the occasion he gave tangible credence to their claims that Argentina produces better footballers than Brazil.

At times, he looked as though he may produce as his performance fitted with the narrative of his tournament. His moments of recognisable genius were fleeting but they were still there.

The skip to the by-line past Matts Hummels early on was from the classic Messi play book, so was the imperious pass he played out to Ezequiel Lavezzi not long after. The cross that followed was side-footed in by Gonzalo Higuain, but he was offside. 

There were other moments, too, times when the burners came on and he accelerated past white shirts.

In extra-time, though, Messi’s influence receded. Early in the added period he should have been at the far post to convert a low cross from Sergio Aguero.

Aguero was playing as a substitute, though, and Messi was not. By that time his race was run and he was not alone.

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