Can Messi Win The 2018 World Cup For Argentina?
The one thing missing from Lionel Messi's resume is a major international trophy. He has spurred Argentina to multiple major finals but hasn't been able to get over the hump. Could the 2018 World Cup in Russia turn out different? Can Messi win the 2018 World Cup? Let's break it down.
Can Messi Win The 2018 World Cup? Yes
Messi won the Golden Ball at the 2014 World Cup while leading Argentina to the final, where they lost 1-0 in extra time. Four years later, Messi is still the best player in the world. If anyone can lead a team to World Cup victory by himself, it's La Pulga.
Angel di Maria is healthy. I still contend that if Angel di Maria had been healthy for the 2014 final against Germany, Argentina would have won. Di Maria, for whatever reason, seems to be the only Argentine attacker comfortable combining with Messi. He even scores the odd goal.
Argentina will probably be able to cobble together a competent midfield out of Ever Banega, Lucas Biglia, Giovano Lo Celso, Diego Perotti, Guido Pizarro and whatever Javier Mascherano has left in the tank.
Nicolas Otamendi has come into his own this season for Manchester City and will give Argentina a much-needed boost at the back.
Can Messi Win The 2018 World Cup? No
Otamendi aside, Argentina's defense is suspect. Imagine relying on the likes of Ramiro Funes Mori to step up in a late-stage World Cup game.
Elsewhere, Argentina's strike force is incredible on paper, but the continuous misfiring of Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero (if he's healthy) in international finals seems to have affected their confidence. They have the yips, in short. Meanwhile, Mauro Icardi is wondering what he has to do to get a game for Argentina and he will probably keep wondering that.
Sergio Romero is better than the average goalkeeper at this World Cup, but Argentina's rivals for the title have the likes of Manuel Neuer/Marc-Andre Ter Stegen, David de Gea (who starts over Romero for Manchester United), Alisson and Ederson, Hugo Lloris and Thibaut Courtois, all of whom are much better than Romero.
A lot is going to depend on Jorge Sampaoli getting his tactics right so teams can't just focus on Messi. If he can get it right, Argentina could be headed to the final again. If he gets it wrong, they could be eliminated in the group stage. They are in the group of death, after all. We here at the18 are not totally confident in Sampaoli's ability. But maybe!
Can Messi Win The 2018 World Cup? Final Verdict
Argentina are going off at about 8/1 to win the thing right now, which honestly feels generous. You never know with Messi, though.