Reggae Boyz struck by brilliance of shining star Lionel Messi
Heimir Hallgrimsson couldn’t repeat the trick of holding Argentina, as the Reggae Boyz succumbed to the magic of superstar Lionel Messi last night to lose 3-0.
Hallgrimsson had stunned world football at the last World Cup finals by masterminding a 1-1 draw for Iceland against the South American giants, but this was an emphatic triumph for his opposition this time.
Having just been installed as head coach of the Reggae Boyz, it was no surprise that Argentina bulldozed their way to victory past Hallgrimsson’s troops inside the Red Bull Arena in New Jersey. Icelandic Hallgrimsson was meant to be the star turn, yet it was 35-year-old second-half substitute Messi who totally stole the show by bagging a brace in the exhibition match.
With the Boyz seemingly resorting to a flat 4-4-2 formation, they were swiftly broken down and as early as the five-minute mark Andre Blake was required. He did well to save Angel Di Maria’s left-footed shot, which seemed destined for the bottom left corner.
Shortly after Ravel Morrison had been booked for a foul, Argentina took a deserved 13th-minute lead. Lautaro Martinez dribbled past the defence then picked out Julian Alvarez who tapped home from the centre of the penalty area.
With the midfield and defence finding Angel Di Maria a real handful down the right wing, Jamaica looked horribly disorganised against the world no.4 team. They were fortunate to enter the break only trailing 1-0 as their goalmouth was peppered with attempts, only for Giovani Lo Celso and Guido Rodriguez to waste golden opportunities to double their lead.
The Boyz finally sprung to life, albeit during added time of the one-sided first half. Shamar Nicholson’s close-range header from Daniel Johnson whistled past the target and under utilised shotshopper Damian Martinez.
After the turnaround, Martinez should have buried his shot from the centre of the box but sent the ball wide to the right. Then on 53 minutes it was Jamaica’s first shot of the contest, only for Morrison to sky his long-range attempt.
The Boyz, languishing as world no.62, must have quivered in their boots when the seven-time Ballon D’Or winner Messi was called into action on 56 minutes to replace Martinez as part of a double substitution.
Messi, nicknamed “the Magician”, soon showed his tricks despite suffering flu-like symptoms before the match. His arrival off the bench sparked a vintage performance for Argentina who turned on the style.
His first attempt to score, from a difficult angle on the left after 68 minutes, saw Blake save the shot from creeping into the bottom left corner.
Hallgrimsson swapped strikers a few seconds later, replacing Nicholson with Andre Gray and on 79 minutes was forced to haul off injured Javain Brown for Kaheem Parris.
Argentina, who head to Qatar 2022 as one of the favourites to clinch the showpiece trophy, made a triple substitution at the same time which included the withdrawal of the relentless Di Maria.
Blake was called into a sudden surge of action, to first deny Messi and then Nicolas Tagliafico before Messi scored in style. He was wonderfully set up by Giovani Lo Celso, then darted past a handful of defenders before unleashing the ball from 18 yards straight into the bottom right corner with four minutes remaining.
Jamal Lowe replaced the ineffective Michail Antonio while Argentina were busy celebrating, yet there was more for the South American fans to cheer.
Messi cleverly curled home a signature free kick signature free kicks from inside the arc. His stunning low shot was directed underneath the Jamaican wall and into the bottom corner in the 89th minute.
Yet he hadn’t finished yet, in added time Tagliafico should have converted Messi’s neat assist and the superstar striker scooped his final shot wide of the target to miss out on bagging what would have been his 91st international goal.
While this game marked Messi’s 100th international success, which extended Argentina’s 35 games unbeaten in a streak stretching back to 2019 and is just two short of Italy’s world record unbeaten run of 37, the focus is on firmly on how Hallgrimsson will tackle the future.
The Boyz were clearly out of their depth, and in a competitive encounter do at least need to get a shot on target if they want to win matches. Their defence was static, the midfield overworked and pinned back while the strikeforce was totally ineffective.
Hallgrimsson has his work cut out to gel the squad, and although there’s undoubtedly talent among the ranks it is a question of when will the Boyz fire on all cyclinders.
JAMAICA | Blake – Brown (Parris, 79), D.Lowe, Mariappa, Bell – Bailey, Morrison, Johnson, De Cordova-Reid – Antonio (J.Lowe, 87), Nicholson (Gray, 70). Subs: Topey, Thomas, Tilt, Foster, Barnes, Howell, Lambert, Waite
Remember to share this article on Facebook and other Social Media Platforms. To submit your own articles or to advertise with us please send us an EMAIL at: [email protected]