Argentina’s Copa America Centenario campaign ended in utter disappointment.
Since their back-to-back titles in 1991 and 1993 respectively, La Albiceleste have endured difficult times in one of the most important competitions for the countries from the American continent’s point of view.
Argentina have won Copa America 14 times in total and were on the verge of claiming their 15th trophy which would have seen them level the tally with Uruguay, who are currently the most successful nation at the competition formerly known as South American Football Championship.
A testy showpiece for the 100th anniversary of the tournament was won by Chile, who showed great resilience to dispatch Argentina on penalties for the second year in a row and lift the coveted trophy. With both teams reduced to ten men on the pitch, it was exactly Lionel Messi who blasted wide from the spot for what turned out to be a disappointing to Argentine’s international career.
Why did Messi decide to call it quits?
Last couple of years have been particularly hard for Argentine football fans who have witnessed their national team lose four major finals in last nine years.
In addition to losing two Copa America finals on penalties to Chile, Argentina side were beaten 1-0 by Germany in the 2014 World Cup final and five-time Ballon d’Or winner has grown frustrated with chronic lack of success with his national team.
Barcelona star has been unable to spark his team into ending a 23-year trophy drought and his first impulse following the final loss was to decide to leave the national team with the Olympic gold at the 2008 Games as his only major international honour.
“It’s been four finals, I tried. It was the thing I wanted the most, but I couldn’t get it, so I think it’s over”, Messi said after the game with his head bowed down in shame.
Lionel Messi has played 113 times for his country since his 2005 debut, but his five goals during the Copa America were simply not enough of a help to his team. Barcelona wizard scored a superb free-kick goal in the semi-final win over tournament’s hosts USA, which was the goal that made him Argentina’s record scorer with 55 goals.
Having eclipsed the 54-goal mark of Argentina legend Gabriel Batistuta, Lionel Messi will forever be remembered as one of the greats in Argentinean football history. Or will he?
Football community has already started analyzing reasons behind his decision to leave Argentina and there appear to be two tides to this issue.
Lionel Messi – Embracing responsibility or showing lack of courage?
Pressure of international football has never been more highlighted than with South American countries.
As a proud football nation, Argentina puts a great deal of pressure to members of the national team, who seem to be struggling to cope with the load despite the fact they are all experienced international stars playing in the biggest clubs and in the best leagues around Europe.
Diego Maradona sent a message to Argentine players before the final telling them not to return home if they lose to Chile, which has perhaps been the culmination of public judgment towards the men who try their best to represent their country.
Reasons for Argentina’s failure need to be looked elsewhere and should not be entirely contributed to high pressure, but players are undeniably victims to distorted public opinion with psychological problems taking their toll to the campaign.
Argentine FA has done little to mend things and help cushion the gap between players and general public. Lionel Messi is clearly fed up with the AFA and as painful as his decision might sound to a regular football fan, it is quite understandable and seemingly natural.
He tried and he failed.
He took the matters into his own hands, placed the ball high in New Jersey air and will forever dream of that moment which will haunt him until he dies. But is it fair to pin it all on him? No it isn’t. Leo Messi showcased great courage, responsibility and dedication with his national team, fighting against evil spirits along the way, but enough is enough.
Messi has just turned 29 and he has little time left to win a title with his country. From the current point of view, the 2018 World Cup and the following year’s Copa seem light-years away and however selfish it may look now – Leo Messi needs to start thinking of his own sake, rather than anyone else’s.