Lionel Messi is two wins away from the elusive World Cup trophy.
The Argentine Master has won awards from the Champions League to La Liga and the Copa America.
But at 35, this is likely to be his last World Cup and his last chance to win football’s most coveted trophy. Is the pressure of winning a tough trophy getting to the usually soft-spoken striker?
Messi at the center of the “Battle of Lusail”
The quarter-final between Holland and Argentina at the Lusail Stadium was a heated affair, with refereeing disputes and heated arguments leading to 17 yellow cards.
But the most surprising thing was to see Messi in the middle of many controversies, openly mocking, taunting, and arguing with Dutch players even after the final whistle.
Messi assisted Argentina’s first goal by Nahuel Molina and then won the second from the penalty spot. Although Argentina was leading 2-0, Messi ran to Netherlands manager Louis van Gaal and assistant coach Edgar Davids and celebrated the goal by raising his ears to them.
The celebration appears to be a nod to former Argentine midfielder Juan Román Riquelme, who was often left out of the Barcelona squad by van Gaal in the 2002-03 season.
The match was heated as Holland pulled a goal back. In the 88th minute, Leandro Paredes received the ball towards the Dutch dugout, and Dutch captain Virgil van Dijk took revenge by pushing him to the ground with his chest.
A last-minute Dutch equalizer sent the game into extra time, which Argentina later won on penalties.
Messi getting in form
Messi still appeared frustrated amid wild celebrations and was seen arguing with Dutch management after the game, appearing to tell Van Gaal: “You talk too much.”
“I don’t respect van Gaal after his comments before the game, and some of the Dutch players talked too much during the game,” Messi said in a post-match interview.
The Dutch manager previously suggested that Messi didn’t help his team much when they weren’t there.
“Van Gaal says they play good football, but he put tall people on the field and won long balls,” added Messi.
Messi continued to vent his frustrations in the tunnel, interrupting the live interview to tell Dutch player Wout Weghorst, “What are you looking at, stupid?” Go ahead, stupid. “Go ahead and pass.”
Weghorst was brought on as a substitute and scored both goals against Holland.
Messi, who also argued with referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz during the game, further criticized his tenure in a post-match interview.
“I don’t want to talk about the referee because you can’t be honest,” Messi said. “If you speak, you will be punished.” “FIFA must think about it; they cannot put a referee who is not suitable in these cases.”
This is not the first time Lionel Messi has shown his temper. In 2011, he kicked the ball into the Bernabeu crowd while playing against Real Madrid in Barcelona. He has also been sent off three times in his career, one of which was an elbow on his Argentina debut.
However, the PSG superstar has a lot of experience controlling his anger and is often the subject of provocations from opposing players.
During Argentina’s 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia in the group stage, Saudi defender Ali Al-Bulayhi slapped Messi on the back and told him, “You’re not going to win.”
At this time, the midfielder usually showed a cool head and only exchanged a few calm words with the player.
As Argentina approach the World Cup final, Messi realizes he is one touch away from completing the trophy cabinet.
For that to happen, a calm Messi is much more useful to Argentina than one who loses his temper and faces expulsion.