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Tale of two talismans: One a hit, other flops

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo… Two of world’s best players started their 2014 World Cup campaign within a span of 18 hours… And how the different it turned out to be. While Messi had the world at his feet with that stunning goal at the iconic Maracana, for Cristiano, it was only despair and nothing else.

Both have come to the World Cup with a mission. To cock a snook at those who say they are only good for their respective clubs and wilt whenever the country come calling.

But after their first matches, it seems Messi’s mission is off to a good start, while Cristiano still has a lot of work to do.

Football is not about individuals. It’s a team game. And even when you have someone like Messi or Cristiano’s calibre, you need others to stand up and be counted. And even when support is hard to come by, great players carry the cross all by themselves. That’s what separates the greats from the others.

If at Rio we saw Messi lighting up the world with that stunning strike, in Salvadore, Cristiano had zilch to offer.

Cristiano did try, but playing against a team of Germany’s stature with a man down is next to impossible. He walked out dejected… Upset at the hammering his team got from one Thomas Mueller. I fear that this loss will have a far-reaching effect on the morale of the Portuguese team. And onus will be on Cristiano to motivate the players.

Monday night was sort of a let-down, but the early morning had never been so beautiful. Watching on the telly Messi’s memorable strike, I was wondering how it would have been if I were at the heaving Maracana, part of that delirious crowd, chanting Messi’s name. As he raced towards the stands, leaving a platoon of Bosnians in his wake, I had goosebumps. These are the moments you remember all your life.

Argentina, as a team, did not do anything impressive against the Bosnians, but that did not stop the magician ending the eight-year wait. His last goal came in Germany eight years back against Serbia, a nation which along with Bosnia were part of Yugoslavia some years back!

The move started from near halfway, and by the time Messi was on the edge of the box, he wrong-footed two defenders before his left-foot bullet found the post and Argentina had their second. The strike was mesmerising, magical, out of the world. He scored many such goals in the Barcelona shirt, and on Sunday — for us on this part of the world it was Monday — he just did it for Argentina. This strike will give them time to breathe again and also the nation.

But then Messi would have to score a gem like this in every match if wants to see his team lifting the World Cup after 28 years.

He did not get any support from his team-mates till Gonzalo Higuain came on and that’s something which is worrying me.

Angel di Maria and Sergio Aguero failed to break the shackles and at times Messi had to drop deep to get the ball. Coach Alejandro Sabella’s decision to go for a five-man defence did not help Messi and I am sure Messi will be impressing upon the coach to adopt a strategy which will give him more freedom. He needs that if Argentina harbour any hopes of an extended stay in Brazil.

And Cristiano? Well he may be asking his coach to tell the likes of Pepe to put some sense into their dense heads.