“I had been waiting for a long time for this moment because on a lot of occasions things didn’t work out for me. Now, things have worked out, the team won and we did well. It’s special because it happened with the national team.” – Lionel Messi.
“It was emotional to watch him, his speed and explosiveness are astonishing. He has showed again he is the best in the world.” – Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld.
“In the World Cup, even though he did not score, he was the figurehead of the team’s attacking play. Having him in the team is a blessing, we all have to take care of him. Messi almost always plays well. Lately, [he] is having great performances with the team.” – Alejandro Sabella.
Let’s start with his latest stats.
Lionel Messi has chalked up 48 goals for club and country this season: 43 with Barcelona, 5 for Argentina. Moreover, in 67 games playing for La Albiceleste, Messi has scored 22 goals whilst also chipping in with 20 assists.
Thirsty for more data? After registering his first three-goal haul for Argentine, LM10 has now taken his hat-trick tally to a career total of 17. And he remains just 24 years old.
While the numbers are simply dizzying, after Wednesday night there is also renewed hope that Messi – who is criticised as not being on the level of Pele and Maradona having not won a World Cup – may be converting his talents in the international arena too. One sensational performance in Bern won’t silence all the Messi-haters who remember that he failed to score at both the 2010 World Cup or last year’s Copa America, but it is a bloody good start.
Messi opened in the scoring in the 20th minute after brilliantly combining with strike-partner Sergio Aguero and applying a perfect finish past Swiss keeper Diego Benaglio. Xherdan Shaqiri fired an equaliser early in the second half but in the final three minutes Messi single-handedly won the match.
The Swiss looked set for a draw until the 87th minute, when their defence lost possession to Aguero. The City striker found his Barcelona teammate, and Messi effortlessly dribbled past two defenders and scored with a shot off the underside of the bar. Then, in injury time, Messi’s late penalty gave the scoreline a somewhat flattering look.