The countdown to the FIFA World Cup 2020 in Qatar continues, with the first match coming this Sunday. Around the world, national teams are bringing the best they can to seize the trophy, and Lionel Messi is ready to take the lead for Argentina.
In the final of the Copa America 2016, Messi’s smile was melancholy when answering questions after Argentina’s loss to Chile in the event. He reached a point that hinted at the possibility of never returning to the country’s national team.
Six years later, Messi arrived in Qatar to play what could be his last World Cup. The stakes are high, and he plans on taking the Argentine squad to the top of soccer’s ranks.
Messi at the Helm
Qatar 2022 will almost certainly be Messi’s closing act on the international stage. It’s now or never for the seven-time Ballon d’Or award winner, and he’s looking for redemption.
In 2010, with Diego Maradona as technical director, it seemed written in the stars that the king and heir would restore Argentina’s glory for the first time since 1986. Reality and Germany caused the dream to come to an end in South Africa.
The 2014 World Cup in Brazil coincided perfectly with the pinnacle of Messi’s career. He entered the tournament having won four Ballon d’Or in the previous six years, and all eyes were once again on Argentina.
Arguably, the supporting cast of Gonzalo Higuaín, Ángel di María, Javier Mascherano, and Kun Agüero seemed to be unstoppable. However, they were eventually knocked down by Germany, putting up a lackluster performance that saw them score just two goals after the group stage.
Now, hope is pinned on a 26-man squad. Argentina’s manager, Lionel Scaloni, has opted for figures such as Emi Martínez in the net, Nahuel Molina, now of Atletico Madrid, and Cristian Romero on defense. He’s also calling up Rodrigo de Paul of Atlético Madrid in the midfield and Nicolás González of Fiorentina in front.
Argentina is one of the favorites to win the World Cup following their success at Copa America 2021. The two-time winners (1986 and 1978) will face Saudi Arabia, Mexico, and Poland in Group C.
Argentina is at +500 to win on William Hill, right behind Brazil at +400. Messi’s name also appears as a possibility to be the top scorer, but he’s fifth of the top five at +1200. Topping that list are England’s Harry Kane (+800) and France’s Kylian Mbappe (+900), who plays alongside Messi for French club Paris Saint-Germain.
World Cup Security Will Be Tight
Identity validation plays an essential role in ensuring the safety of more than 1.2 million tourists who will be at one of the 64 matches of the World Cup. As part of the security process, the Qatari government has implemented the use of the Hayya digital card.
Through it, visitors can enter the Middle Eastern country after purchasing a ticket to attend a World Cup match and confirming a hotel reservation. The card is necessary for everything related to a World Cup visit.
This authentication will also allow fans to use public transport, such as buses, trains, or the metro. In conjunction with this, Qatar plans on implementing facial recognition as an extra layer of security at the stadiums and other key locations.
FIFA and Qatar expect around 1.2 million tourists to fill the stadiums and streets during the games. Anyone who plans on showing up without a Hayya card won’t be among them.
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