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Lionel Messi is only 90 minutes away from achieving endlessness

Messi takes Argentina's team, which is actually fairly average, to the cusp of greatness

By Anurag Punetha

When Shahrukh Khan as Coach Kabir Khan in the Film Chak De,’ his one of the few good movies in his otherwise illustrative career inspired the Girls to play their best game “70 minutes hai tumhare pass”, girls win the match for him in the movie. It was a film though, lines remained etched in Indian minds forever in a do-and-die situation of any game. 

When Messi on Tuesday night scampered down Croatia’s left wing, went inside, and simply laid the ball off for Alvarez to score Argentina’s third goal, Kabir Khan’s memorable film line inadvertently came to most Indian fans of the petite Argentinian legend that it was as if he was playing his best 90 minutes game ever of his entire sporting life.

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It was an amazing display of Messi’s sorcery. Even by the extraordinary standards of Lionel Messi, it was a night to remember. And now he gets to pen one more illustrious chapter in what will eventually become Sunday night’s Messi spectacular.

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Lionel Messi; Image Source: Twitter @RoyNemer

As Argentina’s only hope of making it to the World Cup final, Messi, 35, was simply magnificent in the Lusail Stadium. No one is more deserving of it than he is because few have illuminated the game the way he has, and it would also guarantee that this World Cup will go down as Messi’s greatest moment. With his 11th goal, Messi surpassed Gabriel Batistuta as Argentina’s all-time greatest World Cup scorer.

He also became the oldest man to ever score 5 goals at a single world cup.

He also currently holds the lead with five goals and four assists in the race for the Golden Boot this year. But it was also about his overall performance, as he and Julian Alvarez of Manchester City flat-out demolished Croatia in what ended up being a terrible one-sided demolition.

As the Argentina fans screamed his name and worshipped their hero, Messi raised his arms in front of the wall of blue and white supporters behind the goal. This World Cup moment will go down in history as one of the most memorable ones ever. The 20-year-old Croatian defender Josko Gvardiol, who was hailed as the competition’s greatest defender but was unable to approach the young wizard, had just been demolished by Messi.

In addition, it creates the possibility of a fantasy final featuring the defending champions France back at the 90,000-seat Lusail Stadium, which is exactly what Qatar, FIFA, and the rest of the world – save for Morocco – want to see.

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Messi takes Argentina’s team, which is actually fairly average, to the cusp of greatness because he is simply on another level. What special players do is that. This was by far Argentina’s best performance. Not bad for a squad that lost to Saudi Arabia to start the season and was concerned that losing to Mexico in their second game would even force them to leave the tournament.

Now, it seems like a distant memory. Certainly, given the way, they celebrated after the final buzzer. The relationship between Matteo Kovacic and Luka Modric looked good in midfield for Croatia, who actually got off to a decent start. However, Messi came through for Argentina when they needed him. When Alvarez burst into the Croatian penalty area, goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic raced out and stopped him.

Referee Daniele Orsato of Italy awarded Croatia a penalty that angered them since Kovacic was booked for dissent and assistant manager Mario Mandzukic was dismissed.

Messi took the penalty kick and slammed it into the net’s ceiling. And even if the first was in question, there was no question about the second. There was no stopping Alvarez as he raced from his own half, but Nahuel Molina produced a fantastic decoy run. Borna Sosa and Josip Juranovic deflected the ball, but Argentina’s No. 9 continued running and ultimately hammered it home.

Even excellent was the third. Before cutting it back for Alvarez to score, Messi, danced, dribbled, and taunted Gvardiol. That merely exemplified Messi’s performance and demonstrated his brilliance. He is now 90 minutes away from eternal life. And what glory one man could achieve when one’s fellow player on the field could say a life timeline about you? 

Rodrigo De Paul, a fellow teammate of Messi, said that “we play for the shirt, but we also play for him (Messi). 

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Anurag Punetha, Head of Media and Communication, Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts, New Delhi, India

Author: Anurag Punetha is a senior journalist with 25 years of experience in TV and print. He has worked in senior editorial positions at Zee News, Sahara Samay, Live India, News Express, P7, Lok Sabha TV and Parliament TV. At present, Anurag is the Media Head of India’s top cultural institution Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts.

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