Argentina was the name on top of all pundits’ lists whenever asked who are the favorites to win this World Cup leading up to the tournament in Qatar. Their predictions were not just wishful. Besides the added incentive of watching one of the greatest players in Lionel Messi signing off his international career with the grandest of honours, it had proper substance given Argentina were entering the World Cup with the longest unbeaten streak for any team heading into the tournament: 36 games including that Copa America final against Brazil at the Maracanã.
That unbeaten streak coupled with the fact that Argentina is 3rd on the world rankings and their opening fixture opponents Saudi Arabia are ranked 51st would most definitely ensure a straight forward victory for the Argentines right? Well fate had something different in store. Saudi Arabia stunned the entire footballing fraternity by beating their accomplished opponents by a scoreline of 2-1 despite falling behind in the opening 10 minutes to a penalty taken calmly by the ever-reliable left foot of Messi.
This loss raises huge question marks over Argentina’s credentials as potential winners. But at the end of day any Argentina loss is a huge event stirring all kinds of questions and doubts. The fact remains that on paper they are a well balanced team with an impeccable record backing the squad and its manager leading into the World Cup. The manager though needs to make a few bold decisions ahead of the next game, like starting Lisandro Martinez who has been in sensational form for Manchester United this season, ahead of Romero or Otamendi at the heart of their defense. Also despite the abundance of attacking talent at their disposal, Argentina’s gameplay still seems heavily dependent on Lionel Messi and the brilliant moments he can churn out. Defensively Argentina is a robust team but their midfield and attack need to up their game and be more cohesive to sustain meaningful pressure throughout the 90 minutes.
Argentina is a team which enjoys an incredible fan following throughout the world thanks to their glorious history and the pull of Lionel Messi. This army of unconditionally loving fans traveled to the stadium in Qatar, and tuned into their televisions around the world in anticipation of a thumping win to establish their authority on this World Cup but in return they got more questions than answers at the end of the game. Is this team really ready to finish the wait of 36 years? Is Lionel Messi going to sign off with the ultimate glory? Is Argentina’s notorious inconsistency about to creep in again at the biggest stage of world football? These are all questions that will continue to bother the Argentine supporters till they take the field in their next battle against Mexico on the 27th of November.