The necks of Javier Mascherano and Lionel Messi will be feeling unusually light after a trophyless season at Barca this season. Losing is a feeling they’re not used to. And it’s a feeling they certainly won’t be enjoying.
So it’s just as well the World Cup is here – and Argentina have got off to a flyer.
The South American side opened up their Group F account with a 2-1 win over Bosnia-Herzegovina in Rio de Janeiro, with Leo Messi being the star performer.
There’s been a lot of pressure heaped on the superstar in the run up to the tournament with even the likes of Fabio Cannavaro stating he can’t be considered better than Maradona until he has won the Jules Rimet.
And this year could be the one. The Argentina World Cup odds are looking good this summer, with only the hosts fancied higher. Of course, a strong Messi performance will go a long way to sealing that. He’s proved for Barcelona time and time again one moment of magic from the 26-year-old can turn a game on its head.
And it’ll be a familiar set-up for Messi with the strength of teammate Mascherano sitting behind him giving the little wizard license to thrill.
He’s proved that so far scoring a superb individual effort to finish the Bosnian’s off, whilst Mascherano almost broke the deadlock early on to kick start La Albiceleste’s campaign with a bang. That bang wasn’t needed and with perhaps the trickiest tie in the group out of the way, they can go into the game against Iran on Saturday confident on qualification, giving them a bit of respite next week when they take on Nigeria.
The Second Round might not look too bad either, with the likely draw being the Swiss who only just managed to see off Ecuador in the final minutes of their first group game. Alejandro Sabella will certainly be planned for beyond that stage.
It’s an important tournament for Mascherano and Messi, with it probably being the former’s last World Cup. And for Messi, well he needs to prove himself as the world’s greatest – especially since losing the Ballon d’Or to Cristiano Ronaldo.
Messi only has two World Cup goals to his name, and has been regarded as somewhat of a flop despite a decent 2010, where he picked up the Man of the Match against Greece. He’s seemingly become a victim of his own standards, with a lack of goals snatching his legendary title away from him.
Brazil 2014 has already started differently for him though. He’s scored a typically Messi goal, and alongside an in-form Gonzalo Higuain – who the Argentine captain would like to see join him at Barcelona – the goals could keep coming.
There’s certainly an air of optimism this competition under Sabella. In 2010 the likes of Jonas Gutierrez was preferred to Pablo Zabaleta, while Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria are taking the side to another level.
Will they be walking out into the Maracana on July 13th? You can probably count on it.
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