Messi exits South Africa without a goal

[REACTION] This was supposed to be the World Cup at which Lionel Messi would prove his critics wrong. He would duplicate the success with Argentina he has had with Barcelona. But the 23-year-old star was left in tears after Argentina fell to Germany, 4-0, in Saturday's quarterfinals. He was not a factor in the game and finished the tournament without scoring a goal in five games.

Messi had played well in Argentina's first four games, all wins, but was unable to stamp his authority on the tournament.

Argentina coach Diego Maradona, to whom Messi has often been compared, supported his star.

“To see Messi cry in the locker room, whoever says that he doesn’t feel pride for his shirt is stupid,” Maradona said.

The loss ended the possibility of Messi facing his Barcelona teammates on the Spanish national team in the semifinals.

Messi's success with Barcelona is largely due to the better supporting cast he has at the Catalan club than on the Argentine national team.

Germany isolated Messi in midfield and he was never a factor in the quarterfinal game.

Messi finished with no goals on 30 shots, the second most of any player in the tournament.

33 Asamoah Gyan, Ghana
30 Lionel Messi, Argentina
23 David Villa, Spain
21 Lukas Podolski, Germany
21 Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal
20 Park Chu Young South Korea
20 Clint Dempsey, USA
20 Wesley Sneijder, Netherlands
20 Diego Forlan, Uruguay
20 Luis Suarez, Uruguay

24 comments about "Messi exits South Africa without a goal".
  1. Aldo Baietti, July 4, 2010 at 7:57 a.m.

    he's still one of the best!

  2. Kyr-Roger St.-Denis, July 4, 2010 at 8:39 a.m.

    Even if he didn't score himself, having him on the field drew defenders away from others, leaving them open to score. He was a big part of all of Argentina's games, even when he wasn't on the ball.

  3. Joe Linzner, July 4, 2010 at 9:04 a.m.

    I agree, he is without a doubt the best player in the world today. Amazing touch and vision and yes, unselfish as well.

  4. Scott Ellis, July 4, 2010 at 10:09 a.m.

    Of course he is one of the best, but he is still no Maradona until he achieves success on the World Cup stage.

  5. Kent James, July 4, 2010 at 11:51 a.m.

    Messi can be on my team anyday. Although he did not score, he had some incredible shots, his work rate was high, his passing phenomenal and his dribbling sublime. Even without scoring, Messi was one of the most important players in the tournament.

  6. Tom Symonds, July 4, 2010 at 12:19 p.m.

    Messi is vastly overrated; he was exposed in this WC as being quite ordinary. As the article correctly notes, he is better in La Liga because of his extraordinary teammates at Barcelona. Great Argentine players like Batistuta (all-time leading goal scorer for Argentina by miles) and Maradona were great irrespective of their supporting casts at both club and country. To paraphrase George Best, Messi "can't shoot with his right, can't head the ball, can't tackle, can't play defense..." - sounds ordinary to me.

  7. Ken Morris, July 4, 2010 at 1:43 p.m.

    I don't know why we here in America judge a player's worth solely by goals scored. The problem with Best's comment is simply this: Yeah, he can't shoot with his right or head the ball, but he's still able to outplay everyone else on the field. His individual skills and passing ability are uncanny, and because the defense has to key on him, he increases his teammates' chances of scoring just by being on the field (this is also why Pele, not Maradonna, is the best ever).There's more to this game, and more to judging a player's worth, than simple goals scored. I will go to my grave arguing that Cannavaro was the MVP of WC 2006, and he didn't score either. Italy gave up only two goals for the entire tournament, and Cannavaro was the biggest reason. Messi doesn't have to necessarily score a lot of goals in order to be the best in the world, which he arguably is.

  8. Robert Schaefer, July 4, 2010 at 1:47 p.m.

    Tom Symonds comment is about the single most ridiculous football perspective I have ever heard. So Messi "can't shoot with his right, tackle, or play defense?" Every player in history, including George Best himself had aspects of the game that were not necessarily a strong suit.

    As an analogy, did you know that Michael Jordan was not good at rebounding? His numbers for an NBA player were mediocre throughout his career. Does that make him an overrated player?

    Certainly the Club Barcelona (presuming that Messi could be cloned for the experiment) would put a serious ass-whooping on the Argentine Nationals. So what? The top club in the world like Barca, Real Madrid, Man U, Inter Milan, etc. are a lot better than any national team ever could be. That doesn't mean Messi is any less the special player. He is. There isn't a single team on planet earth who would not include him on their starting XI. Think about it Tom...this time more objectively and seriously.

  9. Mike Gaynes, July 4, 2010 at 2 p.m.

    Overrated? What a ridiculous comment. There is nothing "ordinary" about Messi. For the first four games, he was the best player in the tournament, bar none. He was the engine that drove a poorly prepared Argentine team as far as it went. He may not have scored, but he rattled the posts repeatedly and was key to most of Argentina's goals with his brilliant passing. He was also fouled and chopped with regularity, and rode everything out without losing his poise. The statement that Batistuta and Maradona were great regardless of their supporting casts is just patently false -- Maradona, you may remember, failed miserably in a star-studded team at Barcelona, where Messi has wildly succeeded. The supporting cast is critical -- even Pele had his legendary teammates -- and Messi had no one resembling a Burruchaga, a Valdano or a Batista to take the focus off him, or a Ruggeri to back him up. And the comments about Messi's individual skills are just plain silly -- he's just as good with his head and right foot as Maradona was, and he's a much better defender and tackler. If you think he's "ordinary" based on an ineffective game against Germany, you're a member of a very, very small club... and the lights are out in the clubhouse.

  10. Christopher Holden, July 4, 2010 at 2:15 p.m.

    Messi is one of 11 players on the field ... if the other 10 do not play as a unit what can he do all alone. There were two or three Germans on him every time he touched the ball. I guess George Best, who died 5 years ago when Messi was 17 years old, must have been looking at someone else when Messi scored a wonderful header to beat Manchester United in the UEFA Championship game in 2009, at 21 years of age. Messi will prove you wrong in the World Cup when he is on a team, not forced to carry a team. Does Di MarĂ­a even know how to pass the ball? When a team losses that badly go look at the coach, and then at the backs and the midfielders -- oh no do you mean the decision not to select Inter stars Javier Zanetti and Esteban Cambiasso came back to hurt the team - really? Against the Germans it was ever so clear that Albiceleste missed both these Inter Argentinian stars. Shame on you Diego Maradona - you let your country down by not selecting the right players. Furthermore you had to open your big mouth and call out the Germans - well they showed up and your team was exposed and your formation failed. Javier Mascherano does not possess the passing ability required to launch attacks. As a result Lionel Messi, on numerous occasions, had to drop deep, sometimes into his own half, to retrieve the ball and setup the Argentinian attack. Hopefully in 2014 politics will not determine the selection of the coach in Argentina. The coach blew it, not Messi.

  11. Mike Gaynes, July 4, 2010 at 2:17 p.m.

    Robert, I agree with your sentiment, but your example is flawed. Michael Jordan averaged 6.2 rebounds per game for his career. That puts him in the very highest echelon of NBA guards, behind only Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson. Kobe Bryant, for example, averages only 5.3.

  12. Tom Symonds, July 4, 2010 at 3:11 p.m.

    You're all right...Messi is a record setter: 0 goals in 30 shots...worst goals to shots record in history of WC. Awesome.

    To be fair, I think Messi's got talent, to be sure, but he is not the "Messi-ah" of world football. Completeness in what a player can do is one of the most important marks of a great player. There's no greater stage than a World Cup to display a player's completeness in how he plays the game. Maybe in 2014 Messi will show the world his "greatness", but for now he's just another face in the crowd.

  13. Bertrand Hamilton, July 4, 2010 at 3:45 p.m.

    A galaxy of stars is usually no match for a well rehersed team. Messi is still the most skilled perfomer on the pitch, but he need a system in which he can thrive, and Diego was not able to provide it. He used too many players in the qualifiers to have a settled team with a purpose. Argentina should take a page out of El Tri's playbook of having lots of preturnament friendlies that surprised a lot of expertrs as to what they achieved with no great stars on the roster.

  14. Aldo Baietti, July 4, 2010 at 4:44 p.m.

    Tom, you know nothing about this sport.

  15. Robert Schaefer, July 4, 2010 at 4:54 p.m.

    @ Mike Gaynes,

    I did not do a good job of clarifying what was behind my analogy, although I agree it is probably not a perfect one.

    A group of psychologists in the 1990s were conducting a study on Halo bias in survey ratings. Participants were asked to rate Michael Jordan and host of other basketball players on all phases of the game. Michael Jordan was ranked #1 in rebounding by participants, despite only having a 6.2 RPG, which is actually average for the NBA. Why? Precisely ecause he was a Guard. Of course, as far as Guards are concerned, yes, he was a strong rebounder, but a coach would hardly expect Michael Jordan to be playing in a role down low where more rebounds would come his way. To do such would be foolish, because down low crashing the boards, he would get owned by the 7 footers.

    Take a look at the top 50 Rebounders. You will notice MJ is no where near being amongst the top (no of them are Guards of course!).

    So why did I choose this analogy? Because Tom Symonds mentions that Messi "Cannot defend" which is ludicrous because it is not his primary job, anymore than it is a Guard's job to be a top rebounder for his team.

  16. Kevin Leahy, July 4, 2010 at 6:45 p.m.

    Tom, people like you scare me talking about Messi. His is the comlpete player and humble to boot. He has always defended well. Putting pressure on the ball is every players job and he works as hard as anyone doing it. Maradona might not be in the conversation if it was not for a handball goal. Still to this day, Cruff has influence @ Barcelona and it is why Messi can flourish there. Maradona handicapped him from the begining.

  17. Mike Gaynes, July 4, 2010 at 9:04 p.m.

    Robert, I understood your analogy. I was just pointing out the inaccuracy of the the statement that Jordan "was not very good at rebounding"... when, in fact, he was. It would be like saying that Franz Beckenbauer was not a very good goalscorer, when in fact he was -- he just didn't do it as often as others because it wasn't his primary responsibility. You are certainly correct that Messi's defensive capabilities are irrelevant and the criticism of him along those lines is ludicrous (after all, nobody ever mentions Pele's tackling), but I'd go even further and argue that Messi is actually pretty decent defensively. He tracks back fairly well, uses his quickness to intercept passes and is quite capable in the tackle. And nobody will remember any of that when he retires, as I believe he may, as the second greatest player of all time.

  18. Ken Morris, July 5, 2010 at 1:30 a.m.

    I guess for Tom players such as Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Bret Holman, Yun Jam Ni and Winston Reid are all superior to players such as Messi, Franck Ribery, Kaka and Wayne Rooney. The former group all scored more goals than the latter. Then there's that other guy, Christiano Ronaldo, who only scored once, and that was the sixth of seven against hapless North Korea.Yep, just another one of those overrated types.
    Get a grip Tom!

  19. Tom Symonds, July 5, 2010 at 2:15 a.m.

    Kaka, Ribery, and old-timers like Junior, Socrates, Zidane...all more complete players than Messi. Messi has found his niche at Barcelona but not at the national level and I contend he would find it difficult at most any other club...even with Barca he was easily devoured by Inter. He's got a long way to go before he should be considered God's gift to football the way the shoe salesmen have tried to market him. By the way, "playing defense" means bringing pressure when your team's been dispossessed and not throwing your arms into the air everytime you lose the ball...count his whines in the Germany'll need both fingers and toes to do so.

  20. Mike Gaynes, July 5, 2010 at 2:56 a.m.

    Ribery? Really? That's right, folks... Tom actually considers Ribery a more complete player than Messi. Yes, we all remember Ribery's brilliance in leading France to their dazzling success in the tournament. Our ears are still ringing with the chants for Ribery when he returned home, aren't they? Let's all chant Tom's name in exactly the same tones, shall we?

  21. Mike Gaynes, July 5, 2010 at 3:03 a.m.

    On second thought, however, I must admit that Ribery has talents Messi cannot imagine. Ribery's flair for teenage hookers, red cards, leading player strikes at the World Cup and generally disgracing himself and his country cannot be approached by any player in the world. He is the total package!

  22. Kevin Leahy, July 5, 2010 at 11:07 a.m.

    I think Tom is a lost cause!

  23. Tom Jedrzejewicz, July 5, 2010 at 11:49 a.m.

    Why is anyone taking this discussion personally or making personal attacks?

    Anyway ....

    No one paying attention to the Champions League can dispute the supreme talent of Lionel Messi. He certainly underperformed at this World Cup given his stature, his talent, and his sustained performance at Barcelona over the last couple of years. I was expecting him to "breakout" against Germany, but the Germans did a wonderful job isolating him.

    But Messi was not Argentina's problem at this World Cup. Maradona's team selection was Argentina's problem. He left players home who should have been in South Africa, notably Zanetti and Cambiasso. And he left players on the bench who should have been on the pitch. Diego Milito, Europe's most prolific goal scorer over the last 12 months, was nowhere to be found when Argentina needed goals!

    I also got the impression that the Argentine players had no real plan or system .. Maradona just put them out there and said "play", expecting ball skill and Argentinian destiny to carry the day. Maradona needs to go if Argentina is to win in Brazil.

    As an aside .. the same can be said for Brazil and Dunga's team selection. Kaka underperformed, but his performance was not the reason Brazil flamed out early. Would things have been different if Ronaldinho were available as a sub?

  24. Bill Anderson, July 5, 2010 at 5:52 p.m.

    Tevez was the best player on Argentina.
    Messi has failed on the last two opportunities to perform on the World Stage (Champions League Finals and World Cup South Africa). I believe he would be an important player on any team, but don't think he has proven to be the best player in the world.

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