Lionel Messi’s performance against the Socceroos was “god-like” and the best individual showing at this World Cup, according to an English great.
In Argentina’s 2-1 victory at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, Messi’s genius was on full display.
“Messi has put on the best individual performance we’ve seen at this World Cup so far, by a mile,” Rio Ferdinand said on the BBC.
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“Showboating, laying shots on a plate for teammates, and the crowd – it was almost god-like, after every single thing he does.”
While he was the one to score the first goal, he’d been putting in the mental work throughout the first half.
Messi had been baiting Aussie left back Aziz Behich for much of the first half-hour. The pair eventually engaged in a fracas as they fought for a ball that went over the line for an Argentine throw.
That moment appeared to get Behich hot under the collar. It led to a rash challenge off the throw in, which was called a foul by the referee.
It cost the Socceroos the first goal of the match. Messi got the ball back on the edge of the box after a beautiful one-two in a tight space before calmly knocking the ball into the bottom corner, past the helplessly outreached hand of goalkeeper Mat Ryan.
For SBS, Socceroos great Mark Bosnich noted “the big player” had wound Behich up.
“That was one of the best positions Argentina was in throughout the half. Doing a foul there … can be suicidal,” Bosnich said.
“The ball comes in in a dangerous position. And then Messi does what he does.”
Messi had several other close moments through the second half too – none better than from Argentina’s final attacking opportunity deep into injury time.
He got the shot away, and it went over the top of the crossbar by a matter of centimetres.
Also for SBS, Craig Foster said Messi provided the difference between the two sides.
“He’s one of the greatest players in the history of the game … this is him,” he said.
“We’ve seen this literally hundreds of times against the finest defences in the world.”
The match was also Messi’s 1000th professional appearance – 169 for his country and 831 for Barcelona and PSG.
The goal was also his first in the knockout stage of a World Cup, and it put him past the great Diego Maradona as the Argentina’s leading goal scorer at World Cups.
Messi all but confirmed ahead of the tournament this would be his final World Cup.
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