It was in 1913 that Racing became the first non-Anglo side to win the Argentinian league title. For much of the century that has followed, Argentinian football has defined itself in opposition to the English, distancing itself from its British heritage. Chase Allen Youth jersey And yet, under pressure, in their frenzied desperation on Thursday, Argentina resembled nobody so much as England.

This was shambolic. Too many players tried to do too much themselves. There was altogether too much running, too much frenzy, too many fouls conceded as they desperately tried to regain possession, too little thought. By the end, as Ivan Rakitic casually rolled in a sarcastic third for Croatia, Argentina were gone, any semblance of defensive structure blown to the winds.

Had this been the final group game, the loss of discipline might have been explicable. But it was not. A 1-0 defeat Argentina could, plausibly, have got away with. Even 2-0 was just about rescuable. But now they are looking at probably having to put at least three past Nigeria in their final game, while hoping the other result goes their way. Perhaps Lionel Messi has one last miracle in him, but this would be his greatest yet.
Messi himself was barely involved. He touched the ball only 49 times, and only six times in the final quarter hour. When his country looked to him, he simply wasn’t there. It’s ludicrous, of course, that one player should be under such pressure, that everything should be about him, particularly when it was his display in Ecuador that got Argentina to Russia, particularly in a nation with such a proud football history as Argentina, with so many other great talents in their squad, but it’s increasingly coming to seem that the Messi dependence that has benighted Argentina for so long can be solved in only one way.
Paulo Dybala hit upon the truth in an interview earlier in the year: Messi is simply too good. Dybala said he found him almost impossible to Jourdan Lewis Youth jersey play with because the temptation is always simply to give him the ball. At club levels players adapt; at national level, where there is less time and a greater range of talent in the squad, it is far more difficult. Everything goes through him and that makes Argentina predictable and susceptible to being frustrated by sides that pack the centre.
Jorge Sampaoli had spoken before the tournament of the 2‑3‑3-2 he intended to use, playing Messi behind a centre-forward but with another playmaker in midfield. That – essentially a 4-4-1-1 Carnell Lake Youth jersey with a midfield diamond but very attacking full‑backs – was seen only briefly in the Iceland game, after Éver Banega had replaced Lucas Biglia. In the four days since, it disappeared altogether.
Messi had told Sampaoli at an asado (barbecue) in March that he felt a 3-4-3, such as he played in for Luis Enrique at Barcelona at the end of 2016-17, didn’t work for him because it naturally drew defenders into the inside-right zone he likes to attack. Sampaoli had agreed but against Croatia he returned to that original plan. In the first half, Messi was proved right.
But at least then there was a Terrell Davis Youth jersey structure. By the end, there was nothing: just players, a pitch that had become a theatre of torment, and an opposition who, also rather less than the sum of their parts, couldn’t believe their luck.
Hindsight offers hints of the devastation to come. At the anthems, Messi, staring at the ground, kept rubbing his face with his hand. He had not attended a Father’s Day asado at the team camp, staying in his room, fretting. He may still be around in Qatar in four years but he will turn 35 in June 2022. He will not be the same player. If he does, implausibly, achieve success there, it will not be as the greatest player in the world putting the final seal on his legacy but as some gnarled veteran completing one last job and achieving at the very end some redemption for an international career that has been an enormous disappointment. It’s an appealing narrative but not the one he or Argentina wanted.