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2022 will be Lionel Messi’s best chance to win the World Cup

Lionel Messi has won everything there is to win in football with one notable exception. The player seen by many as the greatest to have ever played the sport has never got his hands on the World Cup. Messi has played in a World Cup final, but the most prestigious prize in international football has thus far evaded him.

 

That could change at the 2022 World Cup, though. Indeed, Argentina are widely considered among the favourites to go all the way in Qatar with La Albiceleste on a 35-match unbeaten run entering the tournament. Lionel Scaloni’s team will take some beating. This is the strongest Argentina have looked for a long time.

 

In the past, Argentina have looked to Messi to make something happen out of nothing. The 35-year-old’s relationship with his homeland hasn’t always been an easy one with many Argentine fans still of the belief that Messi has never reflected their country like Diego Maradona did when he was playing.

 

Messi’s relationship with Argentina in the past has been so strained that he even briefly retired from international duty following the Copa America in 2016. At Barcelona, Messi had a support system which allowed him to play his best football, but he didn’t have anything like this when playing for his national team.

 

Scaloni, however, has altered the dynamic for Messi as an Argentina player. He has built a team unit around the Paris Saint-Germain playmaker with Messi now being utilised as more of a creator than a goalscorer. The 35-year-old no longer has the physicality or mobility to play as he did even a few years ago and Scaloni’s approach recognises this.

 

It was always likely that Messi would drop deeper into midfield in the later phase of his career. The 35-year-old is arguably the greatest goalscorer the game has ever seen, but he’s also one of the best passers. Scaloni has utilised this to provide a supply line to the likes of Lautaro Martinez and Paulo Dybala higher up the pitch.

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In central midfield, Scaloni will likely favour a central trio which will give Argentina the platform required to maintain possession and keep the foot on the throat of opposition sides. It also provides Messi with a safety net and allows the PSG man to focus on creating and opening up the game in the final third.

 

Defensively, Scaloni is expected to favour a centre back pairing of Nicolas Otamendi and Cristian Romero. This is the partnership that worked so well for Argentina over the course of CONMEBOL qualifying although Lisandro Martinez is in such impressing form for Manchester United that he could still force his way into the lineup.

 

Messi, however, is still the focal point of Argentina. This will be his best chance to win a World Cup, although Scaloni insists he could play at another one. “Hopefully it won’t be Messi’s last World Cup,” he said. “He is happy on the pitch and makes a lot of people happy. If we take care of him and bring him the way we have to bring him, there could possibly be more games from him because the world of football is asking for it.”

 

Argentina can’t look ahead to the 2026 World Cup, though. Brazil are the only team who look to be in better shape than La Albiceleste ahead of the start of the tournament in Qatar. This is the opportunity Messi has waited his entire career for. The next month could see him produce the moment that underlines his standing as the greatest of all-time.

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