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26th Jun 2018

It took Lionel Messi three touches of the ball to silence his critics

Robert Redmond

Lionel Messi dragged Argentina to the World Cup and he received the criticism when they struggled in Russia

So, it was only inevitable that Messi would be at the centre of the first positive piece of play from his country at the tournament so far. The Barcelona forward helped fired his team into the knockout stages of the tournament only a few days after it looked like they would be on their way home.

Messi’s first-half goal helped to see off the challenge of Nigeria in Saint Petersburg and was enough to silence the criticism that has come his way over the last few weeks. It took just three touches of the ball do so.

After 14 minutes, Ever Banega, who had strangely been omitted from the starting line-up in Argentina’s previous group games, spotted Messi darting into space and lofted a ball from midfield into the final third.

Banega’s vision was excellent and his delivery almost perfect. The pass didn’t land in Messi’s path, forcing the Argentina captain to improvise. He controlled the ball on his left thigh.

Without wanting to be harsh on the Sevilla midfielder, Messi’s touch made the pass look slightly better than it was. A lesser player wouldn’t have controlled the ball the way he did, cushioning it into his path.

Nigeria defender Kenneth Omeruo was still close enough to Messi to prevent him from getting a shot on goal. But the Barcelona forward ended any chance of that with his second touch which was even better than his first to control the ball over the top.

Messi shifted the ball onto his right foot, rather than cutting back onto his left, his more natural side. It was like when he scored the goal against Bayern Munich in the Champions League in 2015, when his turn to his right saw Jerome Boateng fall over.

The second touch knocked the ball into space and just out of reach of the Nigerian defender.

He then finished on his right foot, smashing the ball high into the net.

It only took three touches for Messi to silence the critics who have come out of the woodwork since the start of the tournament to criticise him.

The claims that Messi didn’t produce was ludicrous. If he didn’t bring his best form to the national team they wouldn’t have been in Russia.

If he didn’t produce his best form for Argentina they wouldn’t be in the situation to win the game late on with Marcos Rojo’s incredible finish. If Argentina didn’t have Messi there is absolutely no way they would be still in the tournament.

Messi is still in the World Cup in spite of some of Argentina teammates, and picked the perfect time to remind everyone of his genius.