As the various European football leagues and championships move toward their finales, curiousity is building to the World Cup to be played on the African continent for the first time starting in June. The World Cup draws the best players from professional teams around the world to play for their national squads. The level of play in the national teams progresses by fits and starts, in the World Cup, even though the players have experience with one another. Take Lionel Messi, for example, the wonder from Argentina...
I was a huge fan of Messi, from the first moment I saw his limited play in the last World Cup, in Germany, as an 18 year old. Who was this diminutive character who lit up the field every time he touched the ball? And why did the national team coach only play him sporadically? In the past four years, Messi has emerged as one of the top footballers in the world, if not the best in the world. He scored four great goals for Barcelona in last weeks semi-final Champions League match against British team, Arsenal. In the press this morning, Argentinian coach and former all-world Diego Maradonna -- with whom Messi, now 22, is being compared-- said that Messi was playing on the field as though with Jesus.
But the Argentinian national team has been playing abysmally and barely qualified for the World Cup despite being loaded with talent. Barcelona is not just the best team in Spain, or possibly in Europe, it is also a team that where the players have figured out how to mesh with Messi's skill. That hasn't happened on the national team, which more like baseball's All-Stars in the mid-August showcase of individual talent.
I love what the World Cup does for billions of football fans around the world. Who can describe or explain that phenomenon, anymore than one can the unfathomable skill and performance of a 22 year old from Argentina who seems almost as amazed as anyone else at the results of his talent?