Messi's Argentina record: Barcelona superstar set for record-breaking 148th cap

By Sports Desk June 28, 2021

Lionel Messi is set to become Argentina's all-time record appearances holder when his country take on Bolivia in the Copa America.

Messi is still chasing an elusive major honour in international colours, a fact somewhat at odds with his gloriously decorated career at Barcelona.

Nevertheless, as he prepares to represent La Albiceleste for the 148th time, the 34-year-old should also reflect upon a brilliant body of work, where he has typically set new standards – most notably standing as Argentina's all-time record goalscorer with 73.

Here, Stats Perform takes a look at Messi's Argentina career in numbers as prepares to go past Javier Mascherano's appearance landmark.

 

CONMEBOL'S SCHOOL OF HARD KNOCKS

In the eternal argument between fans of Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, the Portugal superstar's international record is sometimes held up as a point of difference.

Ronaldo pulled level with Ali Daei's all-time record of 109 goals for his country during the reigning European champions' 2-2 draw with France at Euro 2020 last week.

But there are a collection of "gimme" opponents afforded to Ronaldo within the European qualifiers that Messi simply does not enjoy.

The arduous CONMEBOL World Cup qualification marathon means plenty of his Argentina caps have arrived against high-quality opposition.

The highest proportion of his caps have come in South American World Cup qualifiers, where he has featured 50 times. This is set against 30 Copa outings, 19 appearances at the World Cup and 47 caps in international friendlies.

 

HIGH FIVES, BRILLIANT TREBLES

Argentina's bitter rivals Brazil, Paraguay and their 2015 and 2016 Copa America final tormentors Chile have faced up to Messi more than any other nation.

He has played them all 11 times, scoring five goals versus each. Against Bolivia, he will be aiming to improve upon a record of three goals from nine outings, with La Paz's sapping altitude pleasingly not a factor for Messi on this occasion.

Three of those strikes versus Brazil came in one sparkling 4-3 friendly win at New Jersey's MetLife Stadium in 2012.

Overall, he has six international hat-tricks and none more telling than the sensational salvo to secure a 3-1 win away to Ecuador that virtually single-handedly dragged Argentina to Russia 2018.

 

NIGHTMARE START AND OTHER MILESTONES

Messi's extended run at the summit of world football was not so easy to predict when he marked his Argentina debut from the bench against Hungary in Budapest in 2005 with a red card almost immediately after coming on.

His first goal came against Croatia in Basel on cap number six, while the otherwise forgettable 2010 World Cup quarter-final defeat to Germany in Cape Town was Messi's 50th cap.

Cap 100 came against guest participants Jamaica in the 2015 Copa America, a campaign that ended in now familiar disappointment.

Whether it's 147 caps or 73 goals, it is the number one – that much desired maiden senior trophy with Argentina – that continues to drive Messi. Bolivia are the next team in his way.

Related items

  • Vini, vidi, vici? Vinicius Junior emerging at last as Real Madrid's next superstar Vini, vidi, vici? Vinicius Junior emerging at last as Real Madrid's next superstar

    "I am not a magician," said Carlo Ancelotti. "Just a coach who has to give players the confidence they need to express their qualities."

    The Real Madrid boss was talking about arguably the standout player from Los Blancos' strong start to the season – and, brilliant as he continues to be, it's not Karim Benzema.

    When Ancelotti spoke before Madrid's 2-1 win at Valencia, Vinicius Junior was on a run of four goals in as many games in LaLiga. That tally reached five in five after he fired in a late equaliser at Mestalla – as many goals as he had scored in 59 previous league matches.

    For attacking players, nothing builds belief like the support of a coach and regularly sticking the ball in the net. Vinicius has both of those things going for him right now, and it's yielding the best form of his Madrid career.

    NEW-MAR

    Signed amid much fanfare from Flamengo three years ago, it has taken Vinicius time to fully find his feet in the Spanish capital. Patience is notoriously thin on the ground where Madrid are concerned, but fans have been more willing than usual to play the long game with the Brazil international, who has already played 88 times in Spain's top flight, a tally bettered by just six compatriots in the club's history.

    Given Marca ran a headline this week asking whether Vinicius' form in 2021-22 meant Madrid had found "the new Neymar" – a player they once wanted to bring back to Spain, no less – it would appear the wait has been worth it.

    Along with five goals, Vinicius has provided two assists and created 10 chances this term, all of them from open play. Only Eden Hazard (12) and Karim Benzema (14) have created more among Madrid's squad. Indeed, among players aged 21 and under, only Erling Haaland (seven goals, three assists) has been directly involved in more goals in 2021-22 in Europe's top five leagues.

    After the first six matches of 2020-21, Vinicius had two goals and zero assists, with three chances created for team-mates. Granted, he had spent 52 fewer minutes on the pitch in those six games than he has this season, but he has undeniably made better use of the time given to him of late.

    In the first six games of 2021-22, Vinicius' 17 shots have come amid a 2.64 expected goals (xG) total, but they account for 4.36 expected goals on target (xGOT), giving some indication as to the high quality of his attempts. (The xG metric assesses the quality of chances, and xGOT looks at the player's actual effort at goal.)

    By contrast, at the same stage of last season, he had xG of 2.58 but xGOT of just 1.49 from 13 shots.

    KYLIAN (IN THE NAME OF)

    A strong indicator of Vinicius' form, his willingness to stand up in matches and why those Neymar comparisons are a little closer to the mark than they once were, is the upturn in his impact when running with the ball.

    After six games in LaLiga last term, he had completed only five of 17 attempted take-ons. That success rate of 29.4 per cent was the lowest of any Madrid player to complete at least one dribble.

    This season, that success rate has jumped to 47.6 per cent, Vinicius having completed 20 of 42 attempted take-ons. These are identical figures to one Kylian Mbappe of Paris Saint-Germain – another Madrid transfer target.

    Not only that, but 42 attempted take-ons is the most by any player in LaLiga in 2021-22, while Vinicius also ranks highest for take-ons in the box (eight) and those ending with a shot (four), and joint-highest for drives into the penalty area (also four).

    HEARTBEAT

    Vinicius is also averaging 62 touches of the ball per 90 minutes, an increase from 57 at this stage of the season in 2020-21. It follows that he is more heavily involved in the action at the top end of the pitch: he has had 36 involvements in shot-ending sequences in LaLiga, a figure bettered only by Real Betis' Nabil Fekir (38) and Madrid's own Benzema (51). On average, his tally has jumped from just over three per game in 2020-21 to more than seven in 2021-22. And, of those sequences this season, 10 have ended in a goal – only Benzema (14) can do better.

    This is a player embracing responsibility, demanding the ball, and dazzling when he gets it: in short, he's showing all the best qualities of Neymar, Mbappe or anyone else Madrid may wish to buy, and offering fans everything they hoped for when he first arrived for €46million in 2018.

    Perhaps competition is bringing the best out of Vinicius: with Gareth Bale back at the Santiago Bernabeu (although presently injured), Eden Hazard showing more encouraging signs and Marco Asensio fully fit again, there is no shortage of options for the Benzema support act. Or maybe Ancelotti really does have the magic touch to keep Vinicius in vibrant form for a whole season, beyond the fleeting glimpses displayed under Zinedine Zidane.

    Whatever the reason, Vinicius has never looked so dangerous in a Madrid shirt. Worryingly for his opponents, there could be plenty more to come.

  • Pochettino hopeful Messi can feature for PSG against Man City Pochettino hopeful Messi can feature for PSG against Man City

    Mauricio Pochettino is hopeful over Lionel Messi's fitness ahead of next week's huge Champions League meeting against Manchester City.

    Pep Guardiola's side beat PSG over two legs to progress to last season's Champions League final, before going down 1-0 to Chelsea in the showpiece match.

    The two sides will meet again in the group stage on Tuesday - PSG having drawn their first match, at Club Brugge, while City defeated RB Leipzig 6-3.

    It is a headline fixture of the group stages, with PSG's star-studded front line going up against the Premier League champions.

    However, there is a fitness doubt over Messi, who was absent for PSG's dramatic 2-1 Ligue 1 win over Metz in midweek because of a knee injury.

    Messi will also miss Saturday's Ligue 1 encounter with Montpellier, but Pochettino said it is too early to rule the 34-year-old out for the match against City.

    "Leo has started to run today and as you have seen in the medical update we are going to assess him and we hope he improves," Pochettino told a news conference on Friday.

    "On Sunday, we hope we will be able to give a positive update. We hope everything goes well and he will be available again.

    "Yes, we hope he can play. We have to be cautious and we have to see how he evolves in the next few days."

    Messi has played just three games since his stunning departure from Barca and has yet to find the net for PSG.

    He hit the crossbar against Brugge and then also hit the woodwork with a long-range free-kick against Lyon on Sunday before he was substituted off.

    Mauro Icardi scored a late winner against Lyon, and Pochettino has been delighted with the striker's form this season despite the former Inter man missing a chunk of games through injury.

    "Mauro Icardi, he is player who contributed a lot until his injury," said Pochettino.

    "He recovered and has made a big impact. He scored against Lyon and of course, he offers us an alternative in our attacking play."

  • Messi set to miss Montpellier game with Man City looming Messi set to miss Montpellier game with Man City looming

    Lionel Messi is set to miss a second game in a row for Paris Saint-Germain, with their Champions League blockbuster against Manchester City on the horizon.

    Messi was absent for PSG's dramatic 2-1 Ligue 1 win over Metz because of a knee injury, that victory maintaining their 100 per cent record in the league.

    They will be expected to continue that run when Montpellier visit the Parc des Princes on Sunday despite Messi again being unavailable.

    Defeating City, who prevailed against PSG 4-1 on aggregate in last season's Champions League semi-finals, without Messi on Tuesday would be substantially more difficult.

    In a medical update released on Friday, PSG said: "Leo Messi started running again today in line with his treatment protocol."

    The club added that Messi will be re-evaluated on Sunday, meaning a potential reunion with Pep Guardiola, with whom he won three LaLiga titles and two Champions League crowns during their time together at Barcelona, remains in doubt.

    PSG were held to a 1-1 draw by Club Brugge in their opening Group A encounter.

    Messi has played just three games since his stunning departure from Barca and has yet to find the net for PSG.

     

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.