After what proved to be an extremely short-lived retirement from international football, Lionel Messi was the catalyst for Argentina as they eked out a 1-0 win in their first World Cup qualifier against Uruguay overnight.
Just over two months after announcing his retirement in the wake of Argentina’s defeat to Chile on penalties in the final of the Copa America, Messi broke the deadlock for his nation in the 43rd minute.
It was a goal displaying Messi’s deft control as the ball was fizzed at him while he had to contend with several Uruguayan defenders keeping very close tabs on him. The strike from outside the box was aided by a deflection but nonetheless, there are few players who would have been able to even get a shot off in that situation.
To the surprise of no one, the match was tight throughout with chances at a premium. Argentina also had to contend with playing with 10 men for the entire second half as on the stroke of half time, Juventus star Paulo Dybala was given his second yellow card on his first start for the national side. It was an unfortunate reversal in fortunes for the 22-year-old as earlier in the half he had come within a whisker of scoring when he struck the post with a left-footed strike.
Messi addressed his seemingly heat of the moment decision to quit the team in the first place as well as, explaining why he quickly changed his mind afterwards in an interview with the press.
“I wanted to be here after all the confusion I’d caused by first saying I wasn’t coming and then that I was.
“From the moment I said that, the fans showed me a lot of affection and I’m really grateful, I couldn’t not come back.”
Vincent Whelan, Pundit Arena