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Rediff.com  » Sports » World Cup Player of the Day: Argentina Messi-merize

World Cup Player of the Day: Argentina Messi-merize

June 26, 2014 10:09 IST

World Cup Player of the Day: Argentina Messi-merize

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Lionel Messi's World Cup double for Argentina in Wednesday's 3-2 victory over Nigeria suggests the four-time World Player of the Year may be ready to take his place among the all-time greats of the game.

-Catch the complete coverage of the Football World Cup right here

The 27-year-old has amassed a glittering haul of trophies with Barcelona, netting 354 goals in 425 official games for the La Liga side and helping them win three Champions League crowns.

Until the finals in Brazil, however, he had yet to shine on soccer's biggest stage following subdued performances on his previous two appearances.

He has scored 10 times in his last eight games for his country and on Wednesday became the only Argentine apart from Maradona to score four World Cup goals in a row.

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Image: Lionel Messi of Argentina prepares to take a free kick
Photographs: Ian Walton/Getty Images

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World Cup Player of the Day: Argentina Messi-merize

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Messi's patchy World Cup form called into question whether he would ever quite claim his spot in a pantheon that includes the likes of compatriot Diego Maradona, Brazil’s Pele and Johan Cruyff of the Netherlands.

The comparison with Maradona, whose brilliance almost single-handedly propelled Argentina to victory in Mexico in 1986, is the one inevitably made most often.

Both men are short in stature, predominantly left-footed and blessed with incredible skills that can unlock the most stubborn defences.

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Image: Lionel Messi of Argentina celebrates scoring his team's second goal and his second of the game with Ezequiel Lavezzi (left) and Angel di Maria (right)
Photographs: Ian Walton/Getty Images

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World Cup Player of the Day: Argentina Messi-merize

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Messi had a relatively poor season with Barca by his sky-high standards, missing two months through injury before the New Year but still managing to rack up 41 goals in 46 appearances in all competitions.

It is a tally most players can only dream of yet there were still suggestions he was not giving his all for his club and saving himself for the World Cup.

He did at times look a shadow of his normal zippy self, especially towards the end of a season Barca ended without major silverware, but he seems to have recovered his energy in Brazil at just the right time for his country.

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Image: Lionel Messi of Argentina celebrates scoring against Nigeria in Porto Alegre
Photographs: Paul Gilham/Getty Images

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If Argentina are to win the World Cup they still need to fix the glaring problems in defence and midfield that were again exposed by the Nigerians in Porto Alegre.

However, with Messi in the side and firing on all cylinders, fans back home will be confident they can score more goals than they inevitably leak.

"Messi is one heck of a player," Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi, whose side joined the South Americans in the last 16 despite Wednesday's reverse, said at a news conference.

"There are good calibre players in the Argentina team but Messi is from Jupiter," he added.


Image: Lionel Messi of Argentina celebrates scoring his team's second goalwith Ezequiel Lavezzi
Photographs: Ian Walton/Getty Images

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