World Cup: Messi’s Goal Underlines His Need to Be Great for Argentina

In their first game of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Argentina did not play like world beaters, exactly. They did, however, eek out a 2-1 victory over  Bosnia and Herzegovina, and maybe most importantly, they did so with a very visible contribution from Lionel Messi. Messi, who has been one of the world’s best soccer stars for the last half-decade or so, has had a tumultuous relationship with his home country of Argentina, at least as far as his national play is concerned.

In an absolutely phenomenal piece on Messi and Argentina by The New York Times, his relationship to his country, at least according to some of the people who share a nationality with the soccer star, is troubled by the fact that he doesn’t “feel the shirt” the same way the all-time greats from Argentina — like Maradona and Tévez — did. Of course, Messi’s goal to put Argentina up 2-0 at the 65-minute mark, which you can watch on YouTube here, went a long way toward alleviating that shirt feeling: It was his first World Cup goal in eight years despite his prolific scoring elsewhere in the soccer universe. Anytime a player is so good you’re obligated to root for him, it causes resentment, especially when the accomplishments are inconsistent with the hype (just ask Cleveland-era LeBron James about that).

“I think this is going to be his tournament,” Joe-Max More, a former U.S. men’s national team player and analyst for Fox Sports, said. “And I think that this will be the point where people say this could be the very best player we’ve ever seen.” With Argentina going all in on the attack, Brazil stands as Messi’s best chance to reclaim, or embellish, his international soccer legend.