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Copa America: How Lionel Messi lost yet again on the big stage

After last year's World Cup final heartbreak, mercurial striker suffers second straight defeat in a major final in Argentina colours as his team goes down to Chile

Santiago: Another tournament, another shattering defeat, and another round of unfavourable comparisons to Diego Maradona.

A disappointed Argentina skipper Lionel Messi during the penalty shoot-out against Chile in the Copa America in Santiago, Chile on Saturday
A disappointed Argentina skipper Lionel Messi during the penalty shoot-out against Chile in the Copa America in Santiago, Chile on Saturday 

Lionel Messi was left reflecting on another bitterly familiar failure here on Saturday night after Argentina suffered an agonising 1-4 penalty shoot-out defeat to Chile in the Copa America final. It was the second time in 12 months Messi had finished on the losing side in a major final following Argentina's extra-time loss to Germany at the World Cup last year.

"This generation is desperate to win a title with the national team," Messi had said before this year's Copa America. Yesterday's defeat will reignite the debate about where Messi deserves to be ranked in the pantheon of the very greatest players to have graced the sport. For many, his extraordinary achievements at club level with Barcelona over the past decade have already guaranteed him a place alongside Pele and Diego Maradona.

Off with it: In this series of pictures Argentina skipper Lionel Messi is first seen about to receive his second-place medal
Off with it: In this series of pictures Argentina skipper Lionel Messi is first seen about to receive his second-place medal 

Others insist that his failure to lead his country to international glory puts him just behind Pele and Maradona, who won four World Cups between them. Statistically at least, Messi outscores Maradona in almost every department, with 46 goals in 103 international appearances compared to Maradona's 34 goals in 91 games. At club level, Messi has amassed 412 goals in 482 games, compared to Maradona's 312 in 588 matches. Messi has won three European Cups with Barcelona.

The famous trophy is conspicuously absent from Maradona's CV. Messi has been named world footballer of the year four times, while Maradona earned the accolade only once. Yet the arguments invariably circle back to trophies at international level.

Then walking past the Copa America winners trophy
Then walking past the Copa America winners trophy 

Although Messi played a key role in Argentina reaching the final of last year's World Cup in Brazil, his achievements at international level have not seared themselves in the memory in the way that Maradona's did during his displays in the 1986 World Cup.

Maradona is largely credited with single-handedly guiding Argentina to that World Cup title in Mexico, scoring a series of memorable individual goals against England and Belgium along the way.

Finally taking off the medal as he leaves the podium after his team's defeat to Chile in the final on Saturday. Pics/AP, AFP
Finally taking off the medal as he leaves the podium after his team's defeat to Chile in the final on Saturday. Pics/AP, AFP 

Even in the 1986 final, when he was well-shackled by Germany's Lothar Matthaus, Maradona was able to prove a decisive influence, supplying the sublime first time pass to set up the game's winning goal.

Messi can justifiably reflect, however, that the margins are impossibly fine. In both, last year's World Cup final and this year's Copa America final, Messi had helped create gilt-edged chances for Gonzalo Higuain that the striker squandered on each occasion. Had either of those gone in — and helped Argentina to victory instead of defeat — Messi's right to be bracketed with Maradona and Pele would not be in doubt.

Messi vs Maradona debate continues....

Lionel Messi
@ Club level...
* 412 goals in 482 matches
* Three European Cups

@ International level...
* 46 goals in 103 matches

Diego Maradona
@ Club level...
* 312 goals in 588 matches
@ International level...
* 34 goals in 91 matches
* One World Cup

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1 Comments

  • abc06-Jul-2015

    :(((((( heartbreaking :(

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