In the past twelve months, Leo Messi has won an eighth Ballon d’Or and won the World Cup, so recent times have been kind to him. Good things have to end somewhere though, and for the Inter Miami man, Thursday night (16th November) saw his all-conquering Argentina side lose for the first time in close to a year; a home setback against fierce national rivals Uruguay. The defeat – which came as part of the national team’s qualifying campaign for the 2026 World Cup – has come as a shock given Argentina’s solid form. But Messi was clear that it didn’t represent anything more than a bump in the road, in his estimation.
The match in Buenos Aires came against a team generally considered to be the third force in CONMEBOL soccer. Uruguay are certainly no slouches, and nonetheless it will be a warning to Argentina that they need to keep playing at a supremely high standard if they want to retain the Copa America and World Cup titles that they have secured in the last couple of years. And they’ll need to gather themselves soon, too, because their next opponents are another of the top sides in the world – Brazil.
The last time Argentina lost a soccer match, it was almost a full year ago on the 22nd of November last year. The opponents in that game were Saudi Arabia, and the aftermath of such a loss was deep concern over whether the Albiceleste would even make it out of their World Cup group. They did, with some ease, and went on to win the title. So Leo Messi fans need not concern themselves with this recent setback. All the same, Messi, who has been recovering from an injury which curtailed his debut season in the MLS, won’t have been overjoyed with his own performance in Buenos Aires.
The diminutive forward was reduced mostly to efforts from set-pieces as one goal in each half – from Ronald Araujo, then Liverpool’s Darwin Nunez – gave the visitors an unlikely and invaluable win. Messi did have a chance from a free-kick which brushed the top of the net on the way over, which came shortly before Nunez’s strike. Had the game been leveled at that point, there is a good chance that Argentina would have gone on to win. Now, however, all attentions will turn towards Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday, November 21st, where the continent’s top two sides face off.
The qualification campaign for South American World Cup entrants is a long cycle – it will finish in September of 2025. There is a lot that can still happen between now and then, and Messi himself will be 38 by the time it is played out. As of now, Argentina sit on top of the qualification table. They have 12 points from their first five games, having won their first four before the reverse against Uruguay. That’s five points more than Brazil currently have, having lost to Uruguay and, last night, to Colombia.
A win for Argentina in the upcoming contest between the two giants of CONMEBOL soccer would mean the world champions end the year top of the qualification table, and eight points clear of their biggest rivals. So there is certainly something to play for, for Messi and his teammates, in the Maracana on Tuesday night. It would mean, realistically, that there would be some fairly plain sailing for the champions between now and the autumn of 2025 – and that Brazil would have a lot of tough, must-win clashes in the same time period. This would be particularly good news for Argentina, and Messi, as they seek to win a second consecutive Copa America.
Leo Messi could have retired from international soccer at the end of 2022. What better way would there have been to round off his career than with his hands on the one trophy that had eluded him all this time? That he has stuck around with Argentina means that he is still hungry. And if he’s going to perform for his national team, he’ll need to stay sharp. That’s excellent news for Inter Miami and for the MLS. Messi is not going to be turning up, trying a few flicks and tricks and banking his enormous salary – he’s going to be doing what he can to keep the flame of his outstanding career burning brightly.
With the next MLS season starting in approximately three months’ time, Leo has that long to get himself into the best playing shape possible, and then he can be unleashed on the league from the start of the season; at that point, we can expect to see an Inter side playing at something resembling their full potential.
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