Messi marks 100 games of tears but no ti­tles as Ar­gies head to Ja­maica

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY MAR­I­ANO AN­DRADE

Lionel Messi will play his 100th match for Ar­gentina on Satur­day against Ja­maica in the Copa Amer­ica but it will be a cen­tury marked by too many tears and no ti­tles.

“I’m very happy to reach this record. Hope­fully I can celebrate another vic­tory and once and for all lift a cup,” the Barcelona striker said in an in­ter­view pub­lished on Thurs­day by Ar­gen­tinian daily La Na­cion.

Messi, Ser­gio Aguero, Car­los Tevez and the rest of the Ar­gentina squad have been sent across the An­des on a mis­sion to end 22 years with­out a ma­jor ti­tle since the coun­try won the Copa Amer­ica in 1993.

His ex­tra­or­di­nary de­but against Hungary on Aug. 17, 2005 set the scene for an in­ter­na­tional ca­reer in to­tal con­trast to his suc­cess as a Barcelona player which has seen him win four world player of the year awards, four Cham­pi­ons League ti­tles, seven Span­ish league ti­tles and three Copas del Rey.

The 18-year-old Messi came on as a sec­ond-half sub­sti­tute against Hungary and a minute later was march­ing off again af­ter get­ting a red card for el­bow­ing op­pos­ing de­fender Vil­mos Vanczak.

Team­mates went into the dress­ing room at the end and found Messi cry­ing in a cor­ner, Ar­ge­tinian media re­ported at the time.

Goal Record

Since then, his 99 games for Ar­gentina have pro­duced 46 goals. It is an im­pres­sive re­turn, but pales in com­par­i­son to his record of 412 goals in 482 games for Barcelona.

Nev­er­the­less,

Messi seems cer­tain to even­tu­ally go on and beat Javer Zanetti’s record of 145 caps for Ar­gentina and Gabriel Batis­tuta’s record of 56 goals.

Messi won the un­der-20 World Cup in 2005 and an Olympics soc­cer gold at the 2008 Bei­jing Games. He is now es­ti­mated to earn more than US$70 mil­lion a year but there is no Copa Amer­ica and no World Cup to his name.

Messi was in the Ar­gen­tinian team beaten by Brazil in the 2007 Copa Amer­ica fi­nal in Venezuela and by Uruguay in the quar­ter­fi­nals of the 2011 tour­na­ment on home soil. In 12 games at the Copa he has scored just three goals.

There has been more heart­break in the World Cup.

In 2006, he scored on his World Cup de­but in a 6-0 de­mo­li­tion of Ser­bia and Mon­tene­gro. But Ar­gentina were beaten by Ger­many on penal­ties in the quar­ter­fi­nals.

In 2010, with Diego Maradona as coach, Ar­gentina were among the fa­vorites but lost again in the quar­ter­fi­nals, again to Ger­many. There were more tears for Messi.

Last year, Messi scored four goals as Ar­gentina pushed through to the World Cup fi­nal in Rio de Janeiro’s Mar­cana Sta­dium. But with one foot in the gates of glory, Messi saw Mario Goetze score a 113th- minute win­ner and Ger­many again ru­ined his day.

Messi knows that he can be the most bril­liant player, waltz around count­less de­fend­ers, but he will not over­take Maradona as the leg­end of the Ar­gen­tinian game un­til he get his hand on a tro­phy with his coun­try.

The 99 games for Ar­gentina have been “an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence” but “un­for­tu­nately with­out a ti­tle,” he said.

AP

Ar­gentina’s Lionel Messi leaps over Uruguay’s Egidio Arevalo dur­ing a Copa Amer­ica Group B soc­cer match at La Por­tada sta­dium in La Ser­ena, Chile on Tues­day, June 16.

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