- Lionel Messi showed off his unreal ability to control a football with his opening goal against Nigeria on Tuesday.
- In just fractions of a second, Messi made multiple decisions to make two perfect touches on the ball, which put him in position to put his team up 1-0.
- Argentina would go on to win and escape to the knockout round of the 2018 World Cup.
For the past decade, Lionel Messi has been widely considered one of the two greatest football players on the planet, and with just one play on Tuesday, he concisely showed why the title is so deserved.
Playing in a must-win match against Nigeria, Messi scored the opening goal of the game, receiving a brilliant pass from Éver Banega and confidently depositing the ball in the back of the net to give Argentina an early 1-0 lead.
The play is quite remarkable in real time, but subsequent replays really highlight Messi’s brilliance.
First, one must consider where the pass was coming from, and when Messi decided to start his run.
Banega is at midfield and Messi is not that far out in front of him, but he sees an open alley and decides to make his run. Recognising this, Banega launches one in Messi’s direction in whatever window he can find, threading a needle to put the ball right on his teammate.
What sets Messi apart from so many other players in this moment is his ability to receive the ball, adjust his body, and get off a strike in just fractions of a second.
With both a defender and the opposing goalie closing in fast, Messi has only one chance to settle the ball and take his shot. Receiving the ball over his shoulder, Messi tucked the ball into his possession with a quick touch of his thigh, placing the ball perfectly for his next move.
Thanks to Banega’s unreal placement and Messi’s unmatched ability to take a ball into his own control, Messi is now a threat. After bringing the ball in, he makes one more touch on the ball to put it ahead of him without breaking stride.
Messi’s second touch here moves the ball enough outside to keep it away from the oncoming defender, but not too far outside to lose his angle on the goal. The next time he touched the ball, he buried it in the back of the net.
Here is video of the goal.
And a great look at Messi’s suberb control:
— P Venugopal (@pv_mar10) June 26, 2018
With the goal, Argentina took a 1-0 lead over Nigeria in a match that they’d go on to win to escape the group stage in dramatic fashion.
The play was a great reminder to why Messi is considered one of the best to ever play the game, and people took notice.
That slo-mo angle of Messi’s goal is a masterclass in finishing under pressure. The second touch – in that scenario – is beyond most footballers. #ARG
— Samuel Luckhurst (@samuelluckhurst) June 26, 2018
happy to announce that i am pregnant and the father is lionel messi's second touch for his goal against nigeria
— Aaron West (@oeste) June 26, 2018
In real time, the play might look impressive, but Messi’s otherworldly ability really shines when breaking it down moment by moment.
More World Cup coverage:
- A brutal missed call cost Sweden a huge opportunity against Germany in the World Cup
- Germany’s stunning goal against Sweden was a blow to Mexico as there is now a scenario that could knock them out of the World Cup
- The most mesmerising photos from the World Cup so far
- Neymar drew a penalty with a ridiculous dive – but the World Cup’s new replay system overturned the call
- Lionel Messi is living through a waking nightmare, and it’s impossible to look away
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