Before Argentina’s last group match against Poland, the concept was straightforward: What if you only kept an eye on one player for 90 minutes? And that guy, who is unquestionably one of the GOATs, may be taking the field in his final World Cup match ever. So, with pen and paper in hand, I did something I had never done before: I recorded every second that one player spent on the field. Make sure you check out our sports betting section!
Argentina defeated Poland 2-0, therefore Lionel Messi didn’t play in his last World Cup match. You’ll get the opportunity to see him once, twice, three times, or even four times in Doha. And sure, even though he will be a venerable 36 this summer, there is a chance — never say never — that he may show up in 2026.
Despite having seen Messi for the previous 20 years—possibly 500+ times on television and at least 100 times in person—when you focus only on him, you notice things you wouldn’t normally notice and confirm things you already thought.
Messi is older and it shows
Walking when the ball is not close by is a necessary part of the game, but Messi does it far more frequently than most. We already knew that reading Bobby Gardiner’s key study of Messi’s World Cup 2018 stroll was highly recommended. However, when you focus just on him — something you can only do in person — it is astounding how detached he seems to be from everything else.
He doesn’t follow runners; occasionally, if an opponent is around, he might stretch out a leg. Otherwise, he merely goes about his business. He occasionally glances in the general direction of the ball and occasionally does not.
Since the man is 35 years old, you could be tempted to believe that strolling allows you to conserve energy for when you need to run. However, Messi has been doing this for a while, particularly at the level of the national team.
Messi’s dribbling pace is the same but efficient
We refer to the fact that he typically receives the ball at a trot or a halt before stopping and starting again or spinning into space. It seems odd that he would be speedy with the ball at his feet, but he frequently faces off against opponents. He doesn’t appear to mind throwing the ball away, which happened frequently against Poland, maybe because he does so in areas where Argentina won’t be harmed. Whether he wins it or loses it, beating three or four opponents had the same result: the rival defenses focus on him, warping the defensive form in the process and opportunities elsewhere.
Messi’s positioning is mostly the same throughout the entire game
The first one is about halfway between the center circle and the “D” at the top of the opponent’s penalty area, while the second one is wide on the right and just within the opponent’s half.
When the former occurs, the consequence is usually invariably a shot, the aforementioned pass, a dribbling run that ends in a foul, or a shot itself.
Even if he doesn’t get the ball, he is the perfect decoy
If you’re an opposition player, you are fully aware of who he is and what he is capable of, thus his sheer presence is disruptive. The center-backs are perplexed when he isn’t at the top of the “D” and where he has gone. The left side of the opposition squad is overloaded when he appears on the right.
Despite that Messi is known to break patterns when games are big. Even though he has a very similar playstyle in most games and things haven’t really changed, which makes him rather easy to read. With age being a factor too, the Argentinian might be having a harder time against better-stacked teams. However, let’s not forget who we are talking about here.