Lionel Messi made a subtle move before his clutch goal that had people marveling at his otherworldly skill

FoxLionel Messi’s mastery of the ball was on full display during his opening goal against Nigeria in Argentina’s must-win final match of the group stage of the 2018 World Cup.
  • 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.

Messi runFoxMessi’s run shows off his vision and mind for the game.

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.

Messi settles the ballFoxWith only a moment to take advantage, Messi perfectly plays the ball to himself.

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.

Lionel Messi brings ball inFoxIt only takes one touch for Messi to take control.

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 settlesFoxAn unreal second touch by Messi.

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.

Messi goalFoxGOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOALLLLL.

Here is video of the goal.

And a great look at Messi’s suberb control:

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.

In real time, the play might look impressive, but Messi’s otherworldly ability really shines when breaking it down moment by moment.

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