Brazilian football writer Juca Kfouri was once told that Zico never won the World Cup. “Well,” he replied, “it’s the bad luck of the World Cup.”
And in a way, Brazil’s failure to lift the trophy in 1982 and 1986 actually elevates their position, solidifies them in our hearts because it’s easier to identify with tragic heroes than with heroic heroes. Or in other words, because – as we always do when we think of someone or something else – we are actually thinking of ourselves. But it’s also easier to identify with them because they represent something important: “Beauty comes first, victory is secondary – joy is what counts”, as Socrates put it.
Which brings us to Lionel Messi. Our relationship with him is a little different because Argentine football culture is different from Brazilian football culture, it focuses on winning at all costs. But it’s also a personal thing – while Messi is perhaps the greatest player ever, he’s so adept at hiding his essence that all we know about him is the genius we see on the pitch, so there’s no personal connection. So from our perspective – here we are again in the middle of it all – it could inspire a famous win here so that people neither know nor care about underestimate a man who scored 487 goals in 559 clubs. 91 out of 165 at games and international level; was awarded seven Ballon d’Ors; and won 10 La Liga titles plus four Champions League titles.
Actually, this has nothing to do with us: Messi needs to earn this for himself, so he ends his career without regret. And the good news for him is that he has a good shot: Argentina has a strong defense, solidity and creativity in the midfield and serious firepower up front. The bad news for him is that he may be taking a hit, but reports suggest he’ll be fine.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia was good in qualifying but has had less success since then. While they’re solid at the back: they’ve only eaten six times in 12 games this calendar year, kept clean sheets against Australia, the USA and Ecuador, capped Colombia and Croatia by just one goal and conceded more than just that. Once upon a time. Here we go!
Start: 13:00 local, 10:00 GMT