Argentina superstar Lionel Messi has revealed what he told his teammates just before the second half kicked off against Nigeria on Tuesday evening, as they went on to win the dramatic encounter 2-1.
La Albiceleste showed grit and determination in qualifying for the World Cup round of 16 ahead of the Super Eagles, but it took until Marcos Rojo’s 85th minute winner for them to seal their spot in the next round against France.
The weight of pressure on the Barcelona man’s shoulders cannot be disputed, yet many would struggle to even comprehend just how much is expected of him this summer. Messi is a leader, and just before his side went back out to face another 45 minutes against Nigeria on Tuesday, he was seen motivating his players to finish a job that was half done.
And now, he’s explained exactly what he was getting across to his teammates.
“We wanted to score to get ahead,” revealed Messi in his Budweiser man of the match interview. “And then we knew a different match was coming [after half time]. We only talked about having the ball, not going crazy, because they would come for us. We had to find spaces.”
After Nigeria had found an equaliser shortly following kick off for the second half, the African outfit were then offered hope of going ahead when the referee turned to VAR for a potential handball from Rojo inside his own box.
While the official immediately waved away the claims upon seeing the replay of a loose ball hitting the Argentina defender’s head before his arm, Messi admits that the psychological effects of even going to the video assistant were hard to bare.
“We tired, we were expecting it, although that penalty was weird. That made things very complicated. It’s hard to think, you fell anxious, nervous.
“Time goes by quickly and we wanted to score either way.”