More Messi to edge steely Croatians?
Lionel Messi must get on the ball more often if Argentina are to overcome the steely resolve of Croatia in today’s FIFA World Cup semifinal in Qatar. That’s the combined verdict from TVJ football analyst Andrew Price and national team manager Roy...
Lionel Messi must get on the ball more often if Argentina are to overcome the steely resolve of Croatia in today’s FIFA World Cup semifinal in Qatar. That’s the combined verdict from TVJ football analyst Andrew Price and national team manager Roy Simpson.
Speaking on Sunday, Price argued, “I think he has been conserving his energy throughout this entire World Cup and now is an opportunity for him and his teammates to burst loose.”
Messi, 35, has scored four times and laid on two goals for teammates.
“In the last couple of games, we have seen that when he gets the ball, there is an immediate impact. This usually results in goals or in assists or good attempts. What he has to do is to call for and use the ball more. They know that the time is now,” Price said.
Asked if Croatia should double team the little Argentine, Simpson said: “Messi usually gets involved but sometimes you don’t see him. He makes himself invisible on the pitch, which is a good thing, but I think in playing against a Messi, the Croatians, if you look at how they played against Neymar and all the other guys, will just work their system, work what they know how best to do. Yes it’s Messi, but I don’t think they should sacrifice an additional player to try to get him out of the game.”
He foresees the Croatians, 2018 finalists and third in 1998, maintaining their steady style.
“With a solid defence and midfield control and a ruthless attack coming from various angles, they’re not afraid to take shots. They’re not the kind of team which is going to knock it and take touches in the box to get that nice fancy goal. Once they look up and see the spaces with the defence, that’s the ruthlessness of the attack. They’re going to take some shots,” Simpson tabled on the outsiders who have taken 55 shots at the World Cup so far with 21 on target.
The Jamaica men’s team manager said, “A lot of persons are not recognising that Croatia have the best and most experienced midfield in the World Cup, especially the general Luka Modric. It’s just amazing what he can do.”
Noting that Croatia survived two penalty shootouts to get to the 2018 World Cup final and have done the same in Qatar to reach today’s semis, Simpson added, “These men are made of cement and steel, that level of getting it done, perseverance. It’s just that they have to maintain what they have been doing and I think the longer Argentina keep them into the game, it’s going to be difficult for Messi and his men.”
Price has pinpointed the fine defensive work of veteran Dejan Lovren and newcomer Josko Gvardiol, but he backs Messi to make a breakthrough. “He’s up against possibly one of the two best central defensive pairings in the entire World Cup, which is Lovren and Gvardiol. The two of them haven’t put a foot wrong in Qatar. So, it’s going to take somebody like Messi to unlock that defensive partnership,” Price suggested.