Argentina’s disappointing display against Iceland saw them fail to break down a side that, on paper, should have been easily dispatched.
A lot of criticism fell on the shoulders of their talismanic striker Lionel Messi, whose performance failed to live up to the high standards that he has set for himself - his dismal afternoon culminating in a poor penalty that would have secured his country an important three points.
Having scored 34 goals for Barcelona in 2017/18 during a campaign saw him bag 161 points – the second highest tally in Europe behind Liverpool’s Mo Salah – many would have assumed that the Argentine would arrive in the tournament brimming with confidence.
Whilst he undoubtedly has enough mettle to put a poor performance behind him and move onto the next game for his country, the result highlighted one important factor – the Messi show is highly unlikely to be sufficient for Argentina to secure the most lucrative title in international football, something that has eluded them since 1986.
There will remain games where his ability alone is enough to see Argentina secure victory, but it would be folly to believe it will be enough to drive them to a tournament win that would immortalise them in the history books of football.
As Argentina prepare for a critical fixture against a highly rated Croatian side that boast the likes of Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic, who secured 29 and 48 points respectively in the last La Liga campaign, it is up to their other stars to shoulder some of the burden.
Sergio Aguero, who in fairness scored his side’s only goal in the tie with Iceland, is the main alternative to the lead man should he continue to fire blanks.
His 21 goals in 25 appearances for Manchester City as they romped to the Premier League title highlighted just how potent he can be.
Meanwhile, di Maria has come off a hot campaign for PSG and is more than gifted enough to produce moments of quality that can decide games.
The quartet of attacking options alongside Messi that will be definitive in deciding how for Argentina can go in this World Cup are the Juventus duo of Name Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain, who netted 22 and 16 goals for the Italian champions.
Whilst Messi’s ability is undeniable, Argentina’s other players must stand up and be counted for if they are to fulfil their potential as they bid to go one step further than they did in 2014 and secure their third World Cup title.
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