Jorge Sampaolis Argentina are geared to an extraordinary degree around Lionel Messi but heads-down servicing of the princeling may not be the way to win a World Cup
Fame, reputation, fatal reputation. It can play hideous tricks on the brain. Here's an unexpected World Cup statistic. With the opening seven days of Russia 2018 now done, one outfield player has operated less over 90 minutes than anyone else in any stance in any team. His name? Why, it's Lionel Messi!
Yes, that Messi: many people's choice as the most gloriously talented player at his tournament; and a human consumed with a sense of voracious personal destiny that he might still drive Argentina on to win this World Cup.
But merely, it seems, at his own velocity, and in such a way that reflects both his extraordinary status within this Argentina team, and a athletic that is geared more than ever toward the cult of the star.
Argentina play their second Group D game against Croatia on Thursday. For now that opening fixture against Iceland stands as a genuine curiosity. Messi's penalty miss took the headlines. But behind it are a defined of numbers that sketch out a performance of bizarre and sedentary monotony.
Messi operated 7.61 km. Five days on this is still less than any other outfield player to complete 90 minutes. Unsurprisingly Messi has also run less without the ball than any other outfield player, less even than Kasper Schmeichel and Hugo Lloris who are, of course, goalkeepers.
Run more, move more: it is an English footballing obsession, a recipe for success that has harvested precisely zero World Cups over the past 50 years. But in that time even the most gifted of World Cup winners has tended to show some degree of urgency.
Against Iceland Messi constructed 17 sprints, half as many as Philippe Coutinho and Mesut Ozil in their opening games. The term “sprint” is used advisedly here. The quickest player at the World Cup so far is Cristiano Ronaldo who clocked 34 kph against Spain, perhaps while he was operating off to celebrate one of his objectives. Messi's top speed is 25kph, slower than David Silva, Andres Iniesta and even Sergio Busquets.
On the flipside the things Messi did he did a lot of. These were mainly shooting and dribbling. Despite playing only one game Messi still has four more World Cup 2018 shots than the next player on the list, Denis Cheryshev. Messi is still top of the dribble charts with 15. And despite not running much, he still has more runnings into the attacking third than anyone else.
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