Messi, Ronaldo & co. have much to prove

by Charlie Coffey

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

It seems, with Brazil’s convincing 3-1 win over Ivory Coast and Portugal’s 7-0 mauling of poor North Korea, that normal service has resumed at last. With Argentina cruising into the last 16, it seems the big teams have finally begun to live up to their collective reputation. The big stars, though, are yet to shine as individuals.

Of all the famous names at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa four stood out before the tournament began, which was reflected by their $20 million price tags in our My World 11 Fantasy game. If you haven’t already guessed these men were Kaka, Wayne Rooney, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. So far only Ronaldo has scored, against a demoralised North Korea and with the good fortune of the ball bouncing onto his boot via his back and then his head.

Kaka is beginning to shake off the cobwebs of a stop-start season with Real Madrid and did well to set up Elano’s goal yesterday, although this is his only meaningful contribution so far. His farcical red card yesterday may mean that may have to wait until the knockout stages to put that right. Ronaldo, his team-mate at Madrid, has been quiet but for sporadic flashes of quality.

Although Messi has been lauded by the commentators in all three games so far, I personally don’t think he is playing anywhere near his best. In my opinion Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero (when he has come on) have had as much impact. I think he, like Steven Gerrard for England, concentrates too much on living up to his reputation on the international stage rather than relaxing and playing his usual game. Didier Drogba and Samuel Eto’o try to win games almost single-handedly for their countries, but with such talented players around him Messi has no need to do this.

It seems that Rooney forgot to pack his football brain when he left for South Africa. England seem to be feeling the pressure more than any of the big teams, apart from France of course, and Rooney has just not been himself. Having watched him all season at Old Trafford, the Rooney I watched on TV against Algeria looked like a bad impersonation. His positioning and touch were way off, and he wasn’t much better than the woeful Emile Heskey alongside him. He alone can turn England’s fortunes around, but unless he somehow pulls himself together for the final group game against Slovenia, his team could be on their way home.

Of course the big players are being marked more tightly than others, but this is nothing new for them. Is the weight of expectation too much for their young shoulders to bear? It is often said that for an excellent player to be remembered as a true great they must prove themselves at a World Cup. By this logic, not one of the fabulous four mentioned above, despite the fact that they are all Champions League winners, can yet be included in the distinguished list of names that have weaved their magic into the rich tapestry of the history of the World Cup. Having said this, they all have time on their sides.

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  • Alan

    I think what you must remember about Messi is the amount of space he creates for others, due to being marked so tightly.

  • dexylongshot

    How good is Tevez looking, his goal last night was top drawer, possibly the best so far, I hear Jos’e wants him at Madrid, high praise indeed.

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