Lionel Messi: Little Argentine Starting to Make a Mark at the World Cup

Thursday, 26th June 2014 at 09:32am

Lionel Messi once again proved that he remains the best player in the world after going joint top of the FIFA World Cup 2014 goalscoring charts. His two goals against Nigeria not only helped Argentina register a 3-2 win, but he also moves level with Neymar with four goals to his name. Unlike Neymar, Messi has helped Argentina win all their group matches - almost on his own. Neymar was disappointing in the 0-0 draw with Mexico.

Messi came into the tournament with many questioning his status as the best player in the world. Cristiano Ronaldo, who is the current holder of the FIFA Ballon d'Or award, was expected to shine. Messi had a difficult end to the season with Barcelona. Many raised questions about his work rate and commitment in the last six months. He appears to have saved himself for the World Cup, as people are starting to see the Messi of 12 months ago. Betfair has made Messi as the favourite to win the Golden Boot award at 2/1.

Of course, it largely depends upon Argentina progressing past the last 16 stage. But with the way Messi has been improving with every match, it seems likely that Argentina will be in the latter stages of the World Cup 2014. Argentina take on Switzerland in the last 16 stage. Apart from poor defending, the Latin American team also has to improve its finishing in order to beat better teams. Angel di Maria, especially, was guilty of missing some good opportunities against Nigeria.

There was none of it from Messi, though, as he had four shots and three of them were on target. One of the two goals was a brilliant free kick that Nigerian goalkeeper Enyeama could only watch.

For a number of years, Carlos Tevez was regarded as a much better player for the Argentine national team. Despite Messi banging in the goals for Barcelona, he struggled to replicate the form for the national team. Alejandro Sabella made it a priority to get the best out of Messi after he was appointed as the coach in 2011. Out went players who did not play to the strengths of Messi and in came a system that almost replicated the Barcelona style of play.

The results have been profound. Prior to Sabella's appointment, Messi had scored 15 goals in 54 matches. Since then, he has scored 27 in just 35 games. Even the great Diego Maradona did not score for Argentina at this rate.

The brilliance of Messi has increased people's expectations from Argentina at the World Cup 2014. Betfair now places Argentina as the second favourites - only behind hosts Brazil - to win the tournament. Brazil are 3/1 to go all the way, while Argentina are 4/1. They enjoy similar odds to that of Germany at 4/1, but the Germans will undoubtedly be tired after playing primarily in midday kick-offs throughout the group stages.

Argentina take on Switzerland on July 1 at the Arena de Sao Paulo in Sao Paulo.

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