Lionel Messi is eyeing redemption for the third time in both Brazil and Copa America as he looks to win one major tournament for Argentina in global football.
2014 FIFA World Cup final. Venue: Maracana stadium. Lionel Messi’s Argentina is poised for greatness. Even better, they are on the quest of humiliating their arch-foes Brazil on their home turf. The hosts were humiliated 1-7 by Germany in the semi-final. The only thing that magnifies the humiliation for ordinary Brazilians is Argentina winning on their home patch on a big stage. But, Mario Goetze’s 113th-minute goal in extra time prolongs their agony. Messi is denied a fairytale on the grandest stage. It is a start of a heartbreaking journey of seven years for Lionel Messi.
Messi is on the receiving end of two Copa America finals losses, both against Chile. Both on penalties. His rival, Cristiano Ronaldo, has won one world title when he was part of the Portugal team that won Euro 2016. Messi was denied in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, a tournament that he struggled by his high standards. He missed a penalty against Iceland and struggled to convert chances against Croatia and France. The heartbreaks only increased in the 2019 Copa America when Argentina lost to Brazil in the semi-final. In that match, a rare side of Messi was witnessed. He spoke about the poor standard of refereeing and corruption in CONMEBOL. He was banned for four matches.
Not just on the global stage, Messi has suffered even for Barcelona. The club has not had much success in La Liga. The bitter row with Josep Maria Bartomeu. The Barcagate scandal forced Messi to reconsider his contract. Currently, he is a free agent as his contract with Barcelona has not been renewed. Seven years later, life has presented Messi with yet another golden chance.
In Copa America 2021, the hunger that Lionel Messi has shown is remarkable. The game against Colombia was a classic case. He was at the end of a bad tackle which resulted in a bloody ankle. Messi was not deterred by the blow and he continued to marshal on. When a Colombian player missed the crucial penalty, the roasting Messi gave him went viral on social media.
A calm individual has seen the beast inside him rise. All the pent-up frustration from the heartbreaks of 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018, and 2019 are all coming out in the open. The 2021 Copa America is in the zone of the last-chance saloon for Messi. A win will only cement his legacy as one of the best. The fact that the final in Copa America is Brazil vs Argentina, a dream clash for the ages.
It is a fact of sheer providence that Argentina and Brazil are clashing in the final of the Copa America. The last time they played in the final was in the 2007 Copa America where Brazil won 3-0. Argentina has never won a senior football title since 1991 when Argentina finished ahead of Brazil. 30 years is a long time for any nation. Seven years when it comes to Messi’s brilliance seems like a lifetime.
The Copa America final against Brazil represents the ultimate opportunity for Messi to seek greater glory. A goal in the final would put him level with Pele for the most international goals. Currently, Cristiano Ronaldo is level with Ali Daei for the most goals. Messi can become the greatest from South America if he does well in the final.
A win for Argentina not only fulfils their ultimate aim of humiliating Brazil in their own backyard, it gives Messi the one thing that is missing from his CV. A Copa America win will give Messi the platform for further glory when he tries for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. But, for Messi, July 11 represents the ultimate D-Day for the Argentine legend.
On that day, all the hurt of seven years will be channeled. All the past instances of heartbreak will all be focused on one thing. Argentina will only benefit if Messi, the beast, puts on his ultimate G.O.A.T performance. There is change in the air. Neymar, Brazil’s talisman, had said the team wanted to play Argentina in the final. Brazil will be hoping that they do not bite off more than they chew. For that, they will have to be wary of Messi.
A Copa America win will provide a soothing balm to Messi. But, knowing the great man, his focus and determination will be on greater things. He has nothing left to prove in this world of football. A world title will only legitimize his greatness.