Argentina are facing the possibility of an early World Cup exit

Argentina are facing the possibility of an early World Cup exit
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Argentina 0 – 3 Croatia

messi

On a night when so much was expected of Argentina captain Lionel Messi, Caballero made the most telling contribution to his team’s fate with an attempted chip over Ante Rebic that backfired badly, allowing the striker to volley into an exposed net in the 53rd minute.

Messi – adrift for much of the match, especially during a pedestrian opening half – rallied his side, but neither he nor substitute forwards Gonzalo Higuain and Pablo Dybala could find a way through in Nizhny Novgorod.

Argentina are no longer in control of their own destiny. This defeat follows their opening 1-1 draw with Iceland, in which Messi missed a penalty, and now even a heavy win over Nigeria in their final game on Tuesday may not be enough to send them through to the next round.

Messi

For Messi, a prolific performer at club level with Barcelona, this was another harrowing chapter in his recent history of pain and disappointment in the international game.

It has become more pronounced and painful over the past four years, during which Argentina lost three major finals with Messi as captain.

After the most recent of these – defeat by Chile in the 2016 Copa America – Messi announced his international retirement, having missed a penalty in the shootout. He reversed the decision a month later but now, three days before he turns 31, you feel this really was the last big chance he had of propelling his side to victory on the biggest stage of all.

But at a tournament where Cristiano Ronaldo is again dragging Portugal along with his goals and drive, there will forever be regret and a sadness that a player as talented as Messi looks likely to have one thing missing: a World Cup he defined.