The Albiceleste captain was incensed by the way of his crew’s elimination in Brazil two years in the past and now has one other likelihood to say the trophy
Apart from one more disappointment in main worldwide competitors, in Argentine eyes, the 2019 Copa America will always be remembered as the moment when the usually calm and collected Lionel Messi finally blew his top.
Incensed at what he and many of his compatriots saw as biased refereeing during the Albiceleste’s semi-final defeat at the hands of hosts and eventual winners Brazil, the Barcelona star then noticed crimson after going toe to toe with fearsome Chile enforcer Gary Medel within the third-place play-off.
His subsequent feedback to the press earned him a three-month ban from CONMEBOL, in addition to widespread reward again dwelling from observers not accustomed to the quiet celebrity talking his thoughts fairly so freely.
“I felt we had been robbed, that we deserved to be within the remaining and we do not need to be a part of this present,” Messi had mentioned after refusing to participate within the medal ceremony following victory over Chile.
“We do not have to be a part of the corruption that we have suffered at this match.”
Now, two years later, he’s again on the scene of his earlier fury: and this time, as they are saying in Hollywood blockbusters, it is private.
This Copa America, Leo’s sixth with Argentina, has ended up in Brazil through a succession of last-minute, curious choices.
The Albiceleste captain had initially anticipated to play Group A of the competitors on dwelling soil, solely to see each Argentina and Colombia withdraw from internet hosting duties lower than a month earlier than the motion began because of the severity of the Covid epidemic and social unrest respectively.
With few different choices on the desk, the Copa thus returned to Brazil for the second straight version.
Tite’s reigning champions is not going to benefit from the benefit of 1000’s of followers cheering them on on account of the pandemic however having received their final 9 aggressive matches – the newest on Sunday, a 3-0 defeat of a Venezuela facet lacking 12 gamers by way of the virus – they give the impression of being much more formidable this time spherical.
What, then, of Argentina’s possibilities? The Albiceleste, who open their Group A marketing campaign in opposition to Chile, go into the Copa off the again of two World Cup qualifying attracts in June.
Lionel Scaloni’s males took the lead in opposition to each Chile and Colombia – the previous through Messi’s penalty previous previous Barca team-mate Claudio Bravo – earlier than being pegged again and having to accept a degree.
Regardless of failing to document victory of their solely two matches so far in 2021, there are grounds for optimism within the Argentina camp.
On the again, notably, the emergence of Aston Villa star Emiliano Martinez in aim and Atalanta’s Cristian Romero added new metal and sophistication to a traditionally problematic space for the nation.
Romero will miss the Chile match by way of harm however will return later within the match, whereas Martinez recovered from a horrendous conflict with Colombia’s Yerry Mina – as becoming a welcome as any to the tough and tumble of South American soccer – and is ready to remain forward of Franco Armani within the pecking order for Monday’s opener.
It’s nonetheless a crew that’s regularly coming collectively, with loads of faults to iron out, however regardless of missing among the star energy of earlier nice Argentina sides the 2021 version is able to inflicting just a few surprises in Brazil.
Messi, in the meantime, has appeared snug and relaxed regardless of the plain bodily toll of leaping again into worldwide soccer after a busy membership schedule.
Solely a succession of top-class saves from Bravo and Colombia No.1 David Ospina stopped him from scoring a hatful within the qualifiers, and he appears enthused by the expertise of enjoying alongside a renewed Argentina crew based mostly across the abilities of relative newcomers like Leandro Paredes, Rodrigo De Paul and attacking accomplice Lautaro Martinez, in addition to the pair talked about above.
As for Medel, the rivals confirmed no lingering resentment from that earlier dust-up, smiling and posing for photographs collectively after the match; whereas ‘Pitbull’ even made off together with his erstwhile sparring accomplice’s shirt.
“Though we’ve introduced on new faces we’ve been enjoying collectively as a crew for some time and the crew’s enjoying fashion is fairly clear,” Messi signalled to reporters on the eve of his crew’s Copa debut.
“That’s the reason it’s time to strike on this Copa. We all know will probably be a particular, totally different Copa, due to every part that is occurring on the planet, however we’re able to compete.”
Monday’s opener marks the beginning of what is going to hopefully (from Argentina’s perspective) be a protracted, robust slog to the trophy. Within the subsequent fortnight Scaloni’s males will take the sector 4 occasions, with robust clashes in opposition to Uruguay and Paraguay following in Group A earlier than closing out the opening stage in opposition to Bolivia.
Whereas just one crew of 5 might be eradicated from every group, there may be nonetheless little margin for error. If Argentina slip and fail to complete inside the highest two they may doubtless face the daunting prospect of taking up Brazil in both the quarter or semi-final, an encounter the nation would a lot reasonably save for the deciding conflict in Rio de Janeiro’s Estadio Maracana.
Any notion that they may rely on Messi’s abilities on their method by way of the match, a frequent criticism over time is shortly dismissed by the person himself.
“The national team has never depended on me,” he fired. “We have always tried to put together a strong team to reach our goals. Little by little we have become strong as a team, we have been working for a while with lots of the same players and the same ideas.
“We’ve got already had one Copa America and lots of the gamers now have that have, we’re nonetheless taking place an excellent street.”
Whereas many of the gamers which reached and misplaced these three consecutive World Cup and Copa America finals between 2014 and 2016 have both retired, fallen out of favour of been relegated to a extra marginal function – as is the case with Angel Di Maria and Sergio Aguero – Messi stays indispensable to Argentina’s plans as he prepares to have fun his thirty fourth birthday.
Nonetheless determined to win that first worldwide title, he could discover that the percentages are longer than ever over the subsequent month. However something is feasible with the Barca wizard within the crew – and all of Argentina would like to see him channel that fireplace which was ignited in 2019 and use it to achieve revenge over Brazil this time spherical.