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Messi lights up a Maracana reminiscent of La Bombonera

AS AS 16/06/2014 Moisés Llorens
Leo Messi © Ronald Martinez Leo Messi

Much has been said about Lionel Messi in recent months: that he’s past his peak, that he only made his mark when he threw up on the pitch, that he had forgotten how to play football, that he was a bother to his team-mates… He kept his mouth shut. He turned a deaf ear to it and focused his thoughts on the opponent’s goalmouth. On Sunday, he made that clear. After a physically tiring match that saw a lot of huffing and puffing and little end product, the Argentina captain shouted goal in the World Cup for the first time since 2006. And it was a fantastic strike. Grabbing hold of the ball on the right, he left Mensur Mujdza and Muhamed Besic, who had come to close him down, on the turf; having kissed Asmir Begovic’s right-hand post, his powerful left-foot shot finished in the net.

The goal was met by a roar as has rarely been heard at the Maracana. Argentina had produced an uninspiring display, having started with three central defenders and Javier Mascherano given the creative duties. And when a team is uninspiring, it tends to meet with criticism. Which is why, despite enjoying a lucky start to the tournament (taking the lead through Sead Kolasinac’s own goal after two minutes) Argentina boss Alejandro Sabella rectified his selection at the break, handing the controls to Gago and opting to put Gonzalo Higuaín at centre-forward. Meanwhile, Bosnia-Hercegovina steadily grew into the game with Miralem Pjanic in adventurous mood and Besic in battling form, but they could not connect with a despairing Edin Dzeko and a bold Vedad Ibisevic, who did manage to beat Sergio Romero with a deft finish. And Safet Susic’s men had cause to believe until Messi gained his reward, finding the net in clinical fashion. He continually played some 50 metres from the rival goal, but kept on probing and seeking the whites of Begovic’s eyes. And he found them. Messi lit up a Maracana which, lined with sky blue and white flags, was more like La Bombonera.

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