Nobody expected Argentina to qualify for the World Cup in the first place but Lionel Messi lifted them to the grandest stage in the world. Pitted against Croatia, Nigeria and Iceland, many actually thought that Argentina could bow out of the group stages itself.
And it almost happened.
However, some luck mixed with determination saved the Argentines from the blushes. After all, this is a competition where the best players display their skills on the biggest stage of them all.
And given that Lionel Messi is regarded as the best player of this generation, it would have been a shame if the Barcelona man bowed out of the tournament from the group stages itself.
Right now, there is actually a very good chance for Messi to face his contemporary Cristiano Ronaldo in the quarter-final. But before that, Argentina will have to beat France and Portugal will have to overcome Uruguay.
Despite the fact that beating France looks like a tough ask, Argentina can not only do it but also go all the way and win the World Cup – and here are 5 reasons why…
#1 One hell of a story
Argentina might not be everyone’s cup of cake but imagine this: a team that was on the brink of losing out of the World Cup due to their poor outing in the qualifiers and then somehow winning the World Cup against all odds – does that not make a hell of a story?
In the middle, they were once again on the brink of being eliminated from the group stages but scraped their way through somehow. Somehow.
This is a word that Argentines could associate themselves with a lot. Their story so far is like that of a kid who had no money to travel to the stadium to play a match, but somehow walked and crawled his way through.
Tired from all the walking and crawling, he wasn’t playing the best of games but somehow managed to score the goal that saved his team on the day.
And somehow, they could win this World Cup and complete a fairytale.
#2 Messi fired up
The image of a forlorn looking Messi is not something we are accustomed to seeing, although an argument could be made about the opposite when he plays for Argentina.
At Barcelona, things are a lot easier for him as he has been playing in the same system for the better part of the last two decades. As a result, he takes to Barcelona like a duck takes to water.
At Argentina, he doesn’t get the same privilege. However, inspiration goes a long way and the Argentina captain looks like an inspired player.
The number 10 was seen leading the team-talk at half-time – something that he usually never does, visibly at least – and was really trying to take part in all the plays that Argentina made against Nigeria.
As a result, an inspired Messi is someone who can win you tournaments – and Argentina could just have it their way this time around.
#3 No expectations
The way Argentina have played in the World Cup thus far, a case could be made for them being the least impressive team in the tournament. With a very apparently bleak midfield and a shaky goalkeeper in front of the nets, there are not many expectations over Argentina.
In fact, if anything, France are supposed to overrun them. After all, France are better than them in every aspect. Be it goalkeeper Lloris or attacker Mbappe, France perhaps have the most individually talented players among all the teams in the tournament.
But then again, football is a team game and Didier Deschamps hasn’t been able to get the best out of his ultra-talented players, which is why Argentina could against them and start believing.
However, right now, there are no expectations on them, which is something they could use to their advantage.
After the match against Croatia, Argentina looked like a broken team. Even during the game, the body language of Lionel Messi looked like someone who had no interest in playing that particular game.
While the other LM10 on the pitch was running the show for Croatia, Messi was a forlorn figure that didn’t even want to try and weave some magic for his nation.
However, against Nigeria, he looked inspired – and so did the entire Argentina team. Despite the fact that the South American nation didn’t look very cohesive in the second half, they managed to scrape a win and Messi himself seemed to be leading from the front to help his team-mates be inspired.
Their eventual victory against the African side not only helped them reach the round of 16 but also be inspired – and that could take them all the way.
#5 First hurdle crossed
After finishing their first match with a draw against the defensively strong Icelanders, Argentina was schooled by Croatia in a match that truly displayed the class that the Croats possessed.
However, Nigeria stunned Iceland to give Argentina a ray of hope as a win against Africans would suffice for the Albiceleste to qualify for the second round. But it wasn’t as easy as Nigeria were a tough nut to crack.
While the African outfit were haphazard in their approach, they did manage to equalize after Messi gave Argentina the lead. They could have killed the game in the last quarter had it not been for a poor miss from Ighalo.
Argentina, meanwhile, pounced on their mistake and added to Nigeria’s woes as Marcos Rojo smashed a beautiful right-footed striker goal while playing as an emergency forward.
And now, Argentina are in the next round as they crossed their first hurdle of the World Cup – something many thought they wouldn’t be able to conquer.