World Cup: Argentina relies on Lionel Messi’s “tranquilo” football

There’s a common misconception that winning world championships is about desire, patriotism, “wanting it,” team spirit, or even something called “momentum.” Romantics will have loved seeing the Argentinian players hopping up and down their dressing room after their 2-0 win over Mexico, banging their lockers and bellowing their own fans’ song melodically but touchingly:

I was born in Argentina / Land of Diego and Lionel / Of the boys of the Malvinas I will never forget. . .

No wonder Lionel Messi calls it his favorite fan song. A migrant worker in Europe since the age of 13, long mistrusted at home, he has finally been given a place of honor in the national narrative, along with Diego Maradona and the young conscripts killed in the 1982 Falkland Islands (or Malvinas) War against Britain Author of the new texts, theology and catechism teacher Fernando Romero, happens to be from Hurlingham, the most British suburb of Buenos Aires.

It’s nice to imagine team spirit carrying Argentina past Poland on Wednesday night in a game they may need to win to reach the knockout stages. But for top footballers, geometry usually trumps emotion, just as victory tends to be followed by team spirit and not the other way around. Argentina landed in Qatar after 36 straight games unbeaten and thought they’d done their geometry homework, only to revise it in the blink of an eye here after losing their opener to Saudi Arabia.

To understand how Messi views football, watch clips of his team talks before the game in Barcelona, ​​shown in a Rakuten TV documentary series. Before kick-off, after the coach’s tactical talk, Messi generally gave a short speech in his characteristic monotony, emphasizing the need to think calmly.

Before a game against Atlético Madrid, for example, he told his teammates: “Calm, as always, without losing your head. Not too fast.” At half-time in the first leg of the 2019 Champions League semi-final against Liverpool, he demanded: “Try to calm the game down. . . If we play one against one, they are stronger. We’re not used to it; they are fast. Then we walk up and down; it’s a lottery. When we’re in control, that’s a different story.”

Controlled possession instead of frantic attacks forward is how he wants Argentina to play. After his team beat Mexico on Saturday, he said: “We realized that we had to play more calmly. In the second half we started playing with more possession, we found space between the lines, balls closer to the penalty area.”

It’s a slow, old-fashioned, traditionally Latin American game that contrasts with the furious pace of Europe’s best teams. But Argentina’s assistant coach Matías Manna, who also serves as tactics writer, says it is “Europeanizing” thinking to dismiss the old Argentine way as obsolete: “la nuestra” or “ours”.

When Argentina advance as a block on the ball, it’s easier for teammates to find Messi, who usually runs around near the center circle. From there he can orchestrate attacks. That’s the role he was subsequently assigned here: as a playmaker, what the Argentines call one engage, rather than a kind of genie who only intervenes at crucial moments. However, the 35-year-old also needs to be a genie when appearing near the penalty area to end moves or provide the assist. Against Mexico, for Argentina’s two goals, he did both.

Argentina are solid at the back – they’ve conceded just three shots on goal in their first two games, although the Saudis have netted two of them – but if they have an attacking system, that’s it measurement dependency. However, if you must depend, leave it on someone who has 93 goals for his country and has scored in each of their last six games.

Poland are similar to Argentina: solid defence, difficulty getting the ball forward and reliance on an old guy, in their case 34-year-old Robert Lewandowski. But they are hard to beat. Even a draw would not be enough for Argentina if the Saudis beat Mexico in the other group game or, unlikely, Mexico wins big.

This could be Messi’s last game in blue and white. If that’s the case, don’t let anyone get the old duck of not caring enough about “sweating the shirt.” In his 17 years criss-crossing the Atlantic for that team, he’s won them a Copa America and Olympic gold and guided them to three more Copa America final losses and one World Cup final loss – mostly very close defeats , which can probably best be attributed to randomness. Argentina’s cult World Cup song from 2062 will certainly still have it in the lyrics.

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