Joseph Quirk ’23
Who doesn’t love a good story? Stories are what make sports special. Stories are what create legacies. Stories are what define careers, and there may be no better story in soccer right now than the one that Lionel Messi and team Argentina can write at the 2022 World Cup.
Lionel Messi is largely considered to be one of if not the greatest soccer players of all time. His name is consistently mentioned among legends, and for good reason. At the peak of his prime, Messi was unstoppable. In 2012, he scored 91 goals across all of his league and international matches. Leo scored 13 goals in 12 Champions League matches, as well as 59 goals in 38 La Liga matches (the top Spanish soccer league). And yet, Leo had never won anything of significance with his home country of Argentina.
Now he has a chance. Argentina isn’t the most stacked team on the field, nor do they have the easiest path to the finals—far from it. But Argentina has a team that has played together with top-heavy talent. All people can talk about is Leo. Messi may not be in his prime, but he has still made a sizable impact. Messi already has three goals in this World Cup.
Now, Argentina isn’t unbeatable. They did suffer a surprise loss to underdog Saudi Arabia in this first group play match. However, since then, Argentina is undefeated with no draws, beating Mexico and Poland with a combined score of 4–0. They then handled Australia with relative ease as well in their round of 16 matchup. Next, they face the Netherlands in the quarterfinals. The Netherlands is not an easy team to beat. However, they did look beatable in their last matchup against the United States. The Netherlands won that match 3–1, but that was because they exploited a few mistakes made by the young US team. The US also cost themselves a few goals by failing to score on good chances. The Netherlands is a disciplined team, but is by no means a juggernaut. And if Argentina can pass them, it is wide open for Argentina. If they can pass the Netherlands, Argentina then must pass through the winner of Croatia and Brazil. Then, they could possibly match up against France, England, or dare we say, Portugal and Messi’s old rival from La Liga, all-time great Cristiano Ronaldo? Maybe.
But as I said, this is about Messi’s story. What is a better story than a chance to finally win big with his national team, in what is likely his final World Cup, on the edge of his career? Messi would become immortal before heading off to the MLS like he is rumored to do this transfer window. With the US being out, what soccer fan doesn’t want to see Messi and Argentina finally reach glory?
Justin Bishop ’24
When it comes to the top teams in this year’s World Cup, there are a few that realistically have a chance at winning the tournament: France, the reigning champion from the 2018 World Cup; Argentina, which will rely on Lionel Messi’s ability to carry this team all the way to the promised land in his fifth and final World Cup; and Brazil are the top three teams left in this World Cup as of Dec. 6. The clear choice to win three games in a row and capture a sixth World Cup is Brazil.
Brazil was clearly the best team entering the tournament and is by far the team that has the deepest bench in the tournament. The team combines veteran star players upfront in Neymar and Casemiro with rising talent in breakout players Richarlison and Vinicius Junior. Through four games total and three games played the 25-year-old Richarlison, who made his World Cup debut this tournament, has three goals on five shots which leads the star studded Brazil roster. Casemiro has one goal on five shots and surprisingly Neymar has only one goal from a penalty through two games played. Neymar has been dealing with a nagging ankle injury and recently said he thought his World Cup was over, but he managed to power through it and helped his squad reach the quarterfinal. Brazil was the top team to come out of their group, Group G, which included Cameroon, Serbia, and Switzerland, who joined Brazil and made it out of the group stage. Switzerland, however, ended up losing drastically 6–1 against Portugal this past Tuesday. After taking care of business against South Korea, winning 4 –1, Brazil will look ahead to their quarterfinal match against former Ballon d’Or winner Luka Modric and a tough Croatia team. Presumably, Brazil will face either Argentina and Messi or a strong defensive team in the Netherlands. If they make it all the way to the final, the team would then face off against either Portugal or France, the two heavyweights on the other side of the bracket. This Brazilian group has everything it needs to make this deep run and win the World Cup for a record sixth time in the history of this game. That would put them two World Cup wins ahead of Germany, who would be in second place with fourWorld Cup titles. Brazil faces off against Croatia in Qatar at 10 a.m. on Friday.