Lionel Messi must have thought that everything was going to plan when he rolled a penalty in against Saudi Arabia. If he could scarcely have imagined facing the media after a loss before the game, then in that moment the idea must have seemed farcical.
Yet farcical it was for Argentina, and Messi did find himself in front of both barrels of the Argentine press after the game. Without wresting any credit from an excellent Saudi side, Argentina were limp and lacking in ideas.
Speaking after the match, Marca covered his comments, as he explained what happened.
“We had situations of disallowed goals, at that moment we thought we were going to have many situations and we made the mistake of speeding up, of playing the killer pass first, not moving the ball from one side to the other. We knew that they were playing the high line and that’s where we got a little tangled up. And then we went 1-2 down and we started to get sloppy, to play desperately.”
What became clear on the pitch – that Argentina were feeling the pressure of the upset – was confirmed by Messi too.
“The goal so early did us harm, it confused us. We knew that it could happen in the first game, not playing in the best way as we had been doing, and it happened, we did not get into out patterns, the game that we have been showing for a long time. As the game went by, the minutes… and when you put yourself in a situation where the result is against you, it becomes more difficult.”
He did not hide his team’s emotions either. Manager Lionel Scaloni will have to mastermind a Lazarus-like rejuvenation of his side.
“The truth is that the team feels dead, because it is a very tough blow, because we did not expect to start in this way, we were confident that we would start well, be able to win and that gives you peace of mind. But this group stands out for how united it is, for its strength and it is the moment to be more united than ever and know that we have to return to the basics, to our method to try to win.”
“It is a moment to be united, to turn the page, to no longer think about what happened, just to reflect, take the positives and improve what we did wrong. Let’s think about Mexico. We always said that we wanted to win every game and now more than ever.”
Messi will no doubt be the focus of a deluge of critics, as tends to be the case for the stars of the show. Their next fixture against Mexico on Saturday night now takes on added weight.