After Argentina and Iceland played to a 1-1 draw in their group D match on Saturday, criticisms of Lionel Messi’s performance have rained down. That’s nothing 31-year-old Messi hasn’t dealt with before, but according to his mother, it may mean more this time around.
Messi’s mother speaks out
Via ESPN, Messi’s mother Celia Cuccittini gave a revealing interview about her son to the El Trece TV show “Diario de Mariana.” On the show, Cuccittini said that it’s Messi’s dream to win a World Cup, but that the pressure he’s under is enormous.
“His aim is to bring the Cup home, to win the World Cup. It’s one of his biggest desires. We see him suffer and cry at times. He is the first who wants to bring the Cup with him. He more than anyone would give everything for this to be his World Cup.”
While Cuccittini supports her son’s quest to win a World Cup, the criticisms he receives deeply affects both him and his entire family.
“We suffer from all the criticism that Leo receives,” Cuccittini said. “When people say that he doesn’t feel it or that he plays for the national team out of obligation, that hurts as a mother and as a family. Luckily, people love him a lot and they transmit that to him and he values this a lot. As a mother, I do, too.”
Despite the criticism and the pressure, Cuccittini told “Diario de Mariana” that Messi seems relaxed, calm, and confident. She gave him some advice to try and help him have fun in what’s most likely his final World Cup.
“I wished him a lot of luck. I told him to enjoy himself, to live in the moment and be happy. I told him to do what he knows, to play just as if he was playing when he started out with Grandoli.”
Messi has unpleasant history with the World Cup
With four World Cup appearances but zero wins, Lionel Messi has experienced World Cup heartbreak before. Argentina lost to Germany in the quarterfinals in 2006, and the coach’s decision to bench Messi for that game led to his resignation. In 2010, Argentina was again eliminated in the quarterfinals by Germany, and the 4-0 score was Argentina’s largest margin of defeat since the 1970s. In 2014, Argentina made it to the final game, but lost to — you guessed it — Germany.
To add insult to injury, after Argentina’s 2014 World Cup loss, the team then went on to lose in the finals at the Copa America in two straight years.
He doesn’t need a World Cup to be one of the greatest
With Argentina’s draw against Iceland, Messi’s path to the World Cup grows more complicated. But Hernan Crespo, the now-retired Argentina striker and the country’s third-highest scorer, told BBC Sport that Messi doesn’t need to win a World Cup to be one of greatest players of all time.
“A lot of players are great in our memories without winning the World Cup. Messi is a fantastic player. I love to watch him so much and he’s a very good guy. He deserves to win the World Cup. If he wins he’s a great player, but he is still a great player if he doesn’t.”
As Crespo said, Messi may deserve to win a World Cup, but unfortunately that doesn’t factor into sports. Messi may have to live with never winning a World Cup, and hopefully fans will agree with Crespo: he doesn’t have to win one to be considered a legend.
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