Magical Messi served Chile pain again as Martinez misfires

By Sports Desk June 14, 2021

It was a modest record for a player as magnificent as Lionel Messi: three games, two final defeats, one red card, no goals.

But the Barcelona great's Copa America performances against Chile prior to Monday's curtain-raising clash were not entirely out of keeping with the rest of his Argentina career.

There have been moments of magic, of course, but just 15 goals across 46 Copa America and World Cup appearances ahead of this game. Meanwhile, not since 2007-08 has Messi fallen short of averaging a goal every two games for Barca, let alone one every three.

Even Messi himself could not reasonably argue his international displays have come close to the standard set at club level.

And while World Cup failures will always remain at the forefront of any such discussion – his achievements in contrast to Diego Maradona's one-man show in 1986 – the Copa America has provided its fair share of pain.

The final defeats to Chile in 2015 and 2016 were among three for Messi and four for Argentina since their 14th and most recent title in 1993.

Those two in consecutive years both came courtesy of penalty shoot-outs. Messi scored his spot-kick in the first match but missed the following year, setting his side on their way to another sore setback.

It was fitting then, it seemed, that this latest campaign – surely one of Messi's last – would start against Chile and initially start in much more encouraging fashion.

Neymar had set the standard against Venezuela the previous day.

In front of empty, hushed stands that make it impossible to ignore the influence of politics in football – a popular topic of debate in 2021 – the pace was ponderous until the world's most expensive footballer got to work.

Neymar scored one and created another in a 3-0 Brazil win. Along with five shots, he created seven chances – the most of any Selecao player in a Copa America match since his debut.

It took 33 minutes, in which the absence of an atmosphere again jarred, but Messi rose to that challenge when presented with a free-kick in a central position, dipped over the wall and beyond the grasp of Claudio Bravo.

That was one of seven Messi shots and he played four key passes, too. On paper, this ranked alongside Neymar's efforts.

 

By full-time, though, it was a frustratingly familiar tale, as the supporting cast proved unable to suitably assist their superstar.

Messi's excellence has excused a whole generation of Argentina internationals, absolved of blame because their great number 10 should have been able to win major tournaments alone.

Too many hugely talented players have misfired on the big stage; Lionel Scaloni sent out some past and present examples.

Lautaro Martinez is supposed to be the face of a young, new team. He had 11 goals in 23 prior internationals and should have added to that tally more than once in Rio de Janeiro.

The Inter forward failed to hit the target with any of his three attempts and optimistically appealed for a foul following two of them when he inexplicably missed from point-blank range.

And Martinez's frustration unfortunately came to the fore after 62 minutes when he lunged into an awful challenge on Charles Aranguiz under the nose of the referee and escaped with a booking.

The 23-year-old's evening might have ended early with a red card. Instead, it was cut short by the introduction of Sergio Aguero.

Chile had equalised five minutes prior to Martinez's moment of madness, one of a series of rash attempted tackles punished as a VAR review found Nicolas Tagliafico had made contact with Arturo Vidal in the area.

Vidal took the penalty and Emiliano Martinez turned it onto the crossbar, but Eduardo Vargas was on hand to nod in his 13th Copa America goal – staying three clear of Messi and climbing into the top 10 all-time.

Aguero followed Angel Di Maria onto the pitch as Argentina sought a response. Both players were not so long ago out of the picture under Scaloni, having previously been part of the Messi-led team that repeatedly came up short.

In each Chile final, Di Maria started. Aguero was introduced from the bench in one and in the XI for the other.

As on those occasions, there were no heroics from either on Monday. Di Maria, now 33, had two shots but neither troubled Bravo. Aguero, also 33, was caught offside once.

Messi will be the story if Argentina do not deliver silverware in the coming weeks, just as he will be should they finally get over the hump.

But the same problems persist. When Messi's free-kick set the stage, it was Martinez who could not step up, underwhelming again like too many past Argentina attackers.

If this is to be the tournament in which Messi reaches his promised land, he is going to need some help.

Related items

  • Kesslon Hall's header gives Mt Pleasant 1-0 win over Arnett Gardens Kesslon Hall's header gives Mt Pleasant 1-0 win over Arnett Gardens

    A Kesslon Hall header gave Mount Pleasant FA a hard-fought 1-0 win over Arnett Gardens in the second game of the Jamaica Premier League doubleheader at the UWI-JFF Captain Horace Burrell Centre of Excellence on Sunday.

  • Aaron Rodgers plans to play for Packers in 2021 Aaron Rodgers plans to play for Packers in 2021

    Aaron Rodgers reportedly plans to play for the Green Bay Packers this season.

    Rodgers' future with Green Bay has been in doubt since April, when, a year on from the Packers trading up to select his heir apparent Jordan Love in the first round of the 2020 draft, it was reported he had grown so disgruntled that he had told some within the organisation he did not wish to return to the team.

    The reigning NFL MVP was not present for any of the Packers' offseason practices, skipping their mandatory minicamp, but NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported on Monday that Rodgers had indicated his desire to play for Green Bay this year to people close to him.

    Meanwhile, speaking at the Packers' annual shareholders meeting at Lambeau Field, president Mark Murphy said of Rodgers: "We want him back, we're committed to him for 2021 and beyond. He's our leader and we're looking forward to winning another Super Bowl."

    General manager Brian Gutekunst explained: "We have been working tirelessly with Aaron and his representatives to resolve the issues [Rodgers has raised], and we are hopeful for a positive resolution."

    Should Rodgers return for 2021, the Packers will be among the favourites to reach the Super Bowl, having progressed to the NFC Championship in each of the previous two seasons, losing to the San Francisco 49ers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

     Rodgers produced one of the finest seasons of his Hall of Fame career in 2020, flourishing in his second year in head coach Matt LaFleur's offense to the tune of 4,299 passing yards, a career-high 48 touchdowns and just five interceptions.

    Per Stats Perform data, he was third in the NFL in well-thrown percentage, delivering an accurate, well-thrown ball on 82.4 per cent of his pass attempts.

    He was also third in pickable pass percentage. Rodgers threw an interceptable ball on only 2.23 per cent of his passes.

    While the Packers will be expected to be an NFC powerhouse again with Rodgers under center, his return could prove to be just a case of delaying the inevitable. Green Bay can save over $22million against the cap next offseason by moving on from Rodgers, making a trade potentially much more palatable.

    With or without Rodgers, the Packers will begin their 2021 campaign on September 12 against the New Orleans Saints.

  • Tokyo Olympics Recap: Russian quartet end China gymnastics dominance, 13-year-old Nishiya wants global fame Tokyo Olympics Recap: Russian quartet end China gymnastics dominance, 13-year-old Nishiya wants global fame

    The Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) won artistic gymnastics men's team gold and 13-year-old Momiji Nishiya spoke of her desire to become a global icon after making history in Tokyo.

    Denis Abliazin, David Belyavskiy, Artur Dalaloyan and Nikiti Nagornyy became the first European winners of the Olympic men's team event since 1996 on a tense Monday evening at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre.

    Nagornyy went into the final routine on the floor knowing he had to make up for lower scores from Abliazin and Dalaloyan.

    He stepped up under huge pressure, ensuring the ROC (262.500) edged out Japan (262.397) as China (261.894) had to settle for bronze.

    Dalaloyan tore his Achilles in mid-April, yet he made an incredible recovery to take his place on the top step of the podium.

    He said: "After an injury like this, I appreciate the work I did even more. And now I know all of the work I did wasn't for nothing. This medal is absolutely priceless.

    "When I came to Tokyo, I still couldn't do the vault or the floor exercise. On the third or fourth day I was able to perform a little bit."

    Asked about watching Nagornyy on the floor with gold on the line, he added: "The nervousness was unreal. We prepared for everything, especially the floor exercise.

    "Before the floor exercise, we were deciding if Nikita would do the easy routine or hard one; we decided to go with the easy and stable routine because we knew what score we needed. We knew we had enough and he would be absolutely clean."

    NISHIYA WANTS WORLDWIDE FAME

    The first Olympic gold medal in the women's skateboarding went the way of Japanese teenager Nishiya in the street event.

    Nishiya, at the age of 13 years and 330 days, became the second-youngest Olympic gold medallist after American diver Marjorie Gestring took the top prize in the 1936 Games (13y 268d).

    Her triumph completes a clean sweep for the host nation in the street event of the skateboarding – a sport introduced for these Games – after Yuto Horigome's success in the men's competition at Ariake Urban Sports Park on Sunday.

    Nishiya kept her nerve after Rayssa Leal of Brazil failed to land her final jump – she would have been the youngest ever individual Olympic champion.

    Having missed the landing with her first two tricks, Nishiya registered a score of 15.26 after nailing her final three attempts, bettering Leal's 14.64. Nishiya had only just got a gold medal around her neck when she spoke of her plan to secure another.

    "I want to be the famous one who everyone in the world knows. I want to win at Paris 2024, too," she said.

    PERSISTENCE PAYS OFF FOR DALEY AS GB THRIVE

    British diver Tom Daley won his first Olympic gold medal in his fourth Games, teaming up Matty Lee to take the synchronised 10m platform title.

    The tears flowed for Daley, 27, on the podium after he and Lee ended a China dominance of this event that stretched back to the Sydney 2000 Games.

    Two-time bronze medallist Daley and Lee finished with a score of 471.81, just 1.23 points ahead of silver medallists Cao Yuan and Aisen Chen at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre, where ROC's Aleksandr Bondar and Viktor Minibaev took bronze.

    Daley said: "To finally have this gold medal... I’ve been diving for 20 years, it’s my fourth Olympic Games. Lots of people would have counted me out, being the older person, but I'm in the best shape physically.

    "I still can't honestly believe what is happening. That moment, being about to be announced as Olympic champions, I was gone. I was blubbering."

    It was also a dream day for Tom Pidcock, who became the first Brit to win an Olympic medal of any kind in mountain biking and made it a gold.

    There was no surprise when Adam Peaty became the first British swimmer to defend an Olympic swimming title in the 100 metres breaststroke, while Lauren Williams (taekwondo) and Alex Yee (triathlon) won silver medals.

     

    DIAZ LIFTS HERSELF INTO THE RECORD BOOKS

    Hidilyn Diaz put her name in the record books by becoming the first athlete from the Philippines to win an Olympic gold medal.

    Diaz took the 55-kilogram weightlifting title on a historic day at the Tokyo International Forum,

    She did so in style, finishing with an Olympic record total lift of 224kg, overtaking world record holder Qiuyun Liao of China with her final lift in the clean and jerk.

    Zulfiya Chinshanlo took bronze for Kazakhstan.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.