Messi, a continent is putting its hopes on you tonight | india | Hindustan Times
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Messi, a continent is putting its hopes on you tonight

india Updated: Jul 10, 2014 07:20 IST
Sandip Bardhan
FIFA world cup

Dear Lionel Messi,

The wound of 1998 has yet to heal. As Dennis Bergkamp fired the ball into the Argentine net in France, football fans who swear by the blue and white jersey felt like crying. It was another knockout match against the Dutch. It was the quarter-finals.

Brazil's humiliation at the hands of Germany has sent all but one Latin American teams out of the tournament. Needless to say, all eyes will be on your team, which now carries the hopes of an entire continent in a World Cup played in Brazil.

History is evident that no European team has won the title in South America. Messi, Argentine fans across the globe will keep their fingers crossed when your team will take on the Netherlands in Sao Paulo.

They firmly believe: history repeats itself. The hope of winning a third World Cup — almost three decades after the 1986 dream run in Mexico—comes from Argentina's 3-1 victory over the Netherlands in the 1978 Cup final played in your country.

They know the history, and the statistics too. They know that in the previous four meetings in the World Cup, the Netherlands have won two matches, while Argentina have won one. The encounter between two football powerhouses has ended in a draw in one of the occasions.

Messi, so intense is the passion of your fans that they already have their stat books ready. They know that both teams have played five matches each this World Cup — with the Netherlands scoring 12 goals in comparison with Argentina's seven.

But, mere stats cannot scare them away.

Your formidable opponent Arjen Robben, who has found the net thrice in this tournament, has said he does not consider the encounter a clash between you and him.
"No, I don't see it that way…We do it as a team," news reports have quoted him as saying.

Sadly, for your team, that has not been the case this time. True, Angel Di Maria and Gonzalo Higuain have scored in the last two matches to seal Argentina's victory. But by and large, it has been a Messi show.

Hence, your fans want you to shed the infamous tag that the world's best player is a failure for his national team. They want you to rise and take the centre stage like you have done so many times for Barcelona FC, and even in this World Cup.

Some reports say that Dutch star striker Robin van Persie might not play due to a stomach problem. But, then again, your fans are apprehensive about the prospects of di Maria, who has a thigh strain.

Amid so many uncertainties, one thing's for sure: master strategist Louis van Gaal will move his pieces with surgical precision. The Dutch, who have yet to win the Big Cup, will go all out — equipped with the lessons learnt four years ago in the final showdown with Spain.

But, your fans know that no miracle can stop Lionel Messi once he finds his master touch. Argentina have been worshipping Maradona alone for too long. They deserve a new god.

Wish you luck for tonight's game.

Yours sincerely,
A football lover

(Views expressed are personal)