Lionel Messi led his team to a hard-fought victory over Bosnia and Herzegovina last night, proving he has the capability to help Argentina win the World Cup. Messi bagged the second goal in the 2-1 win to kick-off Argentina’s World Cup campaign.
There has been plenty of pressure on Messi to perform, as the final comparison to Maradona is to lead Argentina to World Cup glory, as Diego did in 1986. Whilst Messi is not alone in a star-studded Argentina squad, he has been given the talismanic tag, heavy in responsibility.
His performance last night was far from his Barcelona best, but the goal proved his ability to score past stubborn international teams. In celebrating, Messi let everyone know how much it meant to him and the relief at shirking some of the pressure on his shoulders.
A man who played against the great Maradona in ’86 was former England goalkeeper Peter Shilton, and he believes Messi can emulate the national hero, but says he needs to show his leadership qualities throughout this tournament.
“Maradona was exceptional because he was a leader,” Shilton said. “He could take the pressure and he could lead by example. When things weren’t going right he’d do something which would end up changing the game. Pele was good at that, he could change the course of a game
“I do watch Messi sometimes and he just fades out of the game if it isn’t going his way, and that is the nature of great players. It is possible for Messi to do it but you have to be a strong character as well and a skilful player.”
Shilton was in goal when Maradona scored his infamous ‘Hand of God’ goal, but also when the diminutive forward rounded several England players to score one of the World Cup’s greatest ever goals.
“I still think to this day that I wish I had thumped him one,” Shilton joked about the goal Maradona scored unfairly. “Unfortunately I couldn’t get close enough to him.”