Lionel Messi went to Brazil with just one World Cup goal his credit — a figure that has prompted countless ruminations on why he doesn't perform with Argentina the same way he does with Barcelona. But in La Albiceleste's first match of the 2014 World Cup against Bosnia and Herzegovina, Messi quieted his critics and scrutinizers if only for a moment by scoring a Barca-standard Messi goal with his very first shot on target of the tournament.
Though Argentina were gifted with a lead in the third minute when Bosnian defender Sead Kolasnic scored an own goal — the cruelest of starts for a team playing in their first World Cup — the 5-3-2 formation they started with inhibited their attack. But when they switched to a less defensive formation, Messi was able to come alive in the second half and dance past several defenders at the top of the box to squeeze a deflected shot off the inside of the post.
That made it 2-0 to Argentina in the 65th minute and though Bosnia and Herzegovina would get their first World Cup goal from Vedad Ibisevic in the 84th minute, the Messi goal even more than the three points will bring huge relief to both Argentina and their four-time Ballon d'Or winning captain.
Finding success at the international level has been a developing trend in this World Cup cycle for Messi, though. He scored 10 goals in CONMEBOL's qualifying — second only to the 11 scored by Uruguay's Luis Suarez. At the club level, Messi is coming off a frustrating season for Barcelona. Disrupted by injuries, accusations of tax evasion and a rare trophyless season, Messi still managed to score 41 goals in 46 appearances across all competitions. But with this World Cup being played in South America, this is being billed as his best chance to win that elusive World Cup that so many people require of him to cement his status as a legend of the game.
This is the start he needed.
- - - - - - -