Lionel Messi may not have shed tears but he was clearly inconsolable. Not even picking up the adidas Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player altered the Argentinian captain’s gloomy expression after his side’s 1-0 extra-time defeat to Germany in the Final of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™.
Before going up to collect his award, Messi sportingly accepted the commiserations of his opponents, including Bastian Schweinsteiger, who gave him a warm embrace at pitchside. He also took time to congratulate Manuel Neuer, who had followed him up to receive the adidas Golden Glove, and posed for the obligatory photos. Messi then rejoined his team-mates as they filed past the victorious Germans, before climbing the steps once more to pick up their runner’s up medals.
And still he kept his anguish and disappointment in check. Afterwards, following almost an hour in the dressing room, he made time to stop off for a photo with his side’s conqueror Mario Goetze, before making his way to the mixed zone to face the world’s media.
“Right now, nothing can console me – not the award or anything else,” said Messi. “Our only goal was to take home the World Cup and enjoy our victory with everyone in Argentina. We deserved a bit more after the game we played, and it was very painful to lose that way,” added the Albiceleste No10, understandably anxious to conclude his round of interviews.
‘We forwards failed to take our chances’
In analysing the defeat, Messi had this to say: “Although they had more of the ball, we had the clearer chances, but those of us up front failed to convert them. We had three opportunities – one fell to me, one to Pipa [Gonzalo Higuain] and one to Rodrigo [Palacio]. In failing to get on the score sheet last night, the Argentina captain concluded the knockout phase without adding to the four goals he plundered during his side’s three group fixtures.
That said, it would be neither opportune nor fair to focus on Messi’s goal drought. After all, it was his assist that set up Angel Di Maria’s winner against Switzerland in the Round of 16, while against Belgium in the next round, his ball retention was key to wearing down his opponents – as signalled by his own coach, Alejandro Sabella. In the semi-final against the Netherlands, he then confidently tucked away his penalty during the shoot-out, no mean feat considering the huge pressure he was under.
The Final also had its share of Messi moments, with his pace and skill complicating matters for the German defence. This was especially evident in the first half, most notably when he twice left Jerome Boateng for dead with a stop-start run down the right channel that ended with a dangerous cut-back from the by-line. Shortly after the break, he continued in that vein, embarking on one of his trademark right-to-left slalom runs, only to send the ensuing shot wide. Despite his obvious fatigue, he never once looked like giving up.
Messi concluded by lamenting: “After failing to get past the quarter-finals for so long, we managed to get to the final, which is still something. Even so, we’re leaving here disappointed not to win the trophy given the way the final played out. That leaves us feeling very annoyed and angry, but we now need to look to the future.”