Lionel Messi’s dream of emulating the legacy of the late Argentina great Diego Maradona lives on. The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner has tied Maradona on eight Globalism Cup goals and scored 21 tournament appearances for his country on Saturday.
Messi’s stunning strike from outside the box sealed a 2-0 win over Mexico to finish second in Group C, just as their hopes of victory began to fade and fear set in. Top scorer Gabriel Batistuta with 10 goals, but the winner should bring more chances to overtake Qatar’s Batigol.
The real dream is to simulate Maradona’s 1986 World Cup victory, but Messi can be content with himself at the present time, tying Maradona’s record for appearances in the World Cup and goals, two years and a day after the death of the “peloza”.
The curly-haired playmaker inspired Argentina to victory in Mexico in 1986, as well as playing in the 1982, 1990 and 1994 editions.
Some insist Messi cannot be considered the greatest of all unless he lifts the trophy, and in Argentina, Maradona’s illustrious World Cup legacy often helps him draw comparisons, with his flawed genius beating out the almost perfect Messi.
Maradona scored five goals and assisted five others to lead Argentina to their second World Cup victory 36 years ago in Mexico.
Almost a year later Messi was born, but Argentina never managed to lift the trophy in his life.
The Albiceleste captain inspired the team to finish second in 2014, as Argentina lost 1-0 in extra time to Germany in the Rio de Janeiro final.
Paris Saint-Germain, with the number 10 shirt, participating in the World Cup for the fifth time, scored a penalty in the opening match for Argentina, but they suffered a shock defeat by Saudi Arabia.
Against Mexico he burst into life sporadically but his team was largely stifled by their energetic opponents.
Early in the second half Messi sent a free kick over the bar from a dangerous position, as Argentina grew more despondent.
He eventually broke the deadlock in the 64th minute, finishing superbly just out of reach of Mexican cult hero Guillermo Ochoa, with Enzo Fernandez adding a remarkable second late on.
Maradona scored just 15 goals for Argentina in 41 official matches, compared to 49 in 115, but some of them propelled them to World Cup glory.
– Rival histories –
After being knocked out at the group stage in Spain 1982, Maradona returned with a vengeance four years later.
Evoke the most talked about display in football history against England in the quarter-final.
The stocky forward scored one of the best goals of all time with a superb individual dribble, after opening the scoring with the infamous ‘Hand of God’ punch on England goalkeeper Peter Shilton.
Another brace followed against Belgium in the semi-finals and Maradona provided an assist in the 3-2 final victory over West Germany, perhaps the country’s finest sporting moment.
In 1990, Maradona led Argentina to the final, but it fell 1-0 to West Germany.
A wild celebration after scoring in the 1994 World Cup became a permanent image – Maradona failed a drug test and was sent home after two matches.
Messi, who became the first Argentine to score in four World Cups this week, struck on his debut in the 2006 tournament against Serbia and Montenegro as a teenager.
He was an unused substitute as Germany eliminated Argentina in the quarter-finals, then suffered another 4-0 defeat by the same opponent at the same stage in 2010.
Germany thwarted Messi again at the last hurdle in 2014 and France beat them in the round of 16 in 2018, the playmaker setting up two goals in a 4-3 loss.
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Messi has never scored in a World Cup knockout game and has scored twice in two matches this year, and it could be his time in each of Argentina’s last six matches.
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