Lionel Messi produced a scintillating individual performance as Argentina destroyed Paraguay 6-1 to reach the final of the Copa America on Tuesday.
We tell you why exactly should the FC Barcelona star not focus on scoring goals, but, on being the creator-in-chief for Argentina along with two other things we learned from the game.
Argentina thrashed Paraguay to reach the final of the Copa America, hoping to end 22 years without a major international trophy. The team, that scraped through most of their games without really creating an impression, seems to be peaking at the right time as they prepare to face the host.
We decided to pick out the top three things learned from the scintillating performance by the world cup finalists.
1 – Lionel Messi Needs To Focus On Creating And Not Scoring Goals For Argentina
The FC Barcelona man tormented Paraguay mercilessly as the favorites produced their best display so far of the Copa America and advanced to a showdown with Chile in Saturdaya s final.
Although Messi failed to end his run of more than 900 minutes without an international goal from open play, he turned creator with three assists and had further hand in two other goals as Argentina tore Paraguay apart.
Goals from Angel Di Maria (2), Marcos Rojo, Javier Pastore, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain completed an emphatic rout for the South American giants.
Argentina have now gone 22 years without a major international trophy and it has coincided with one of their greatest sons donning the White and Blue.
While Messi has won the Olympics and World Cups at junior level with Argentina, a World Cup and a Copa America final defeat in 2014 and 2007, respectively, is the best he can show for his 46 goals with the national side in 102 games.
The FC Barcelona star does hold records for being youngest Argentine goalscorer at the World Cup, most goals by an Argentine in World Cup qualifiers (10), but the player recently said he regrets not having won any major trophy with the team.
So, how does the player who looks simply faultless for his club side, suddenly, become human with Argentina?
People have come up with many theories, including the lack of motivation on behalf of the player, lack of chemistry that every national squad may have in comparison to club sides, or issues with the system.
But the more you look at Lionel Messi over the last four years with Argentina, the more you will be convinced it is not about the motivation at all. And the fact that most of the players in the national squad have been playing with each other since their exploits for Argentina in youth tournaments, negates the chemistry theory to some extent if not all.
The problem looks very much with managers and their systems and the role Messi takes up because of the way he plays for FC Barcelona.
Lionel Messi cannot play the same role he plays with FC Barcelona, i.e. having an equal hand in playmaking and goalscoring. He has to take up more of the creator role. Primary reason being Argentina is massively short of a deep lying playmaker or a central midfield playmaker to bring Messi into play in the attacking third to be on the end of assists.
Lionel Messi has to play the chief playmaker role, but, it does seem he gets tempted to play the FC Barcelona role often in games, as well.
It is the job of the manager to make a system, give each players their roles very clearly. And so far, none of the Argentina managers have recognized this, that Lionel Messi cannot be a goal-getter in chief, but, a goal creator-in-chief for Argentina because playing both the roles or just of the goalscorer will not bring the best out of Leo Messi given the make of the squad.
And the quicker everyone works on that plan, the better they will bring out of both, Argentina National Team and the FC Barcelona star.
Messi took it upon himself last night to create chances for the star studded Argentina attacking lineup, and had the most Key Passes (5), Chances Created (6), Dribbles (6), Touches (79*) out of any player in the match.
No wonder, when he takes the mantle of creating the chances to himself, the team scores goals.
2 – Di Maria Back To His Best
Di Maria scored a brace in the thumping win over Paraguay. The player, who moved to Manchester United from Real Madrid for 59.7 million pound had a stop-start first season at the Old Trafford club, and, headed into the Copa America with a lot of speculation in the media of his future despite never really indicating that he wanted to leave the club.
While Argentina initially struggled to win games convincingly, things came together quite nicely last night, as it did for Di Maria.
The player looked sharp, and showed some deft touches on the ball that we have come to expect off him. Not only that, more importantly, he had end product to his game last night. Something that he had shown in abundance during his final year at Real Madrid when he took them to the tenth Champions League crown but had slightly lost it at Manchester United.
Not entirely due to his fault as such, but a new manager, new system contributing heavily to a lack of end product with the very high standards Di Maria has set.
It does take away the confidence of the player and anyone who saw him during the previous Argentina games would suspect that it was playing on his mind.
It has been comprehensively overturned now, and, Chile defenders need to be wary of the other left-footed magician in the Argentina side now, too, a lot more than they originally would have imagined.
3 – Argentina Are Peaking At The Right Time
Argentina topped a difficult group, but, with largely unconvincing performances with a 2-2 draw against Paraguay followed by 1-0 wins against Uruguay and, with all due respect, lowly Jamaicans were beaten by a solitary Higuain goal.
While Argentinaa s forward line depth is envy of many national teams, they struggle to find a combination that works well. And while they have a very talented midfield, to an extent it is short of a playmaker who can carry the ball from deep.
The manager has great options, but, for years now Argentina have not been able to find the right balance in their side and thereby, continue to play unconvincing football.
However, last night, Argentinaa s potent collection of attacking talent finally appears to have clicked with Saturdaya s final looming, just at the right time, one would think.
Manchester United defender Rojo and Paris Saint-Germaina s Pastore had given Argentina a 2-0 lead midway through the first half before Paraguay pulled one back through Lucas Barrios.
But any Paraguayan hopes of repeating their heroics in the group phase a when they came back from two goals down to draw 2-2 a were snuffed out by two goals in six minutes from Di Maria early in the second half.
The carnage was completed with a headed goal from Manchester City striker Aguero in the 80th minute before substitute Higuain made it 6-1 just after coming on.