Those of us who prefer “The Beautiful Game” to other sports had the opportunity to see the magic of Lionel Messi versus the Samba Kings of Brazil last Saturday (June 9), in the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
The tag line for the event was the “Clash of the Titans” as the two countries have won soccer’s World Cup seven times between them. There was also the subplot of duel between Argentina’s Lionel Messi and Brazil’s Neymar fueled by the war between the Brazilian Pele and the Argentinean Diego Maradona- both of whom can lay claim as the “Greatest” of all time- over which of their countryman was better.
Anyone with a casual acquaintance with the game knows the bona fides of Messi, a three time world player of the year who has won five La Liga titles and three Champions League titles among his 21 major titles earned. Neymar, currently playing in Brazil for Pele’s former club Santos, has 3 Paulista (Brazilian) championships to his credit among his 7 major titles.
Billed as a an international friendly, it seemed as if both teams were intent on showing the world a style of soccer that threw caution to wind as only these South American giants can. The game turned out to be a free flowing end to end affair that left all spectators satisfied.
It was a battle all afternoon long. Brazil took an early 1-0 lead but Messi scored two before the end of the half to put the “Albiceleste” on top. Brazil started the second half strongly and scored the first two goals of the half before Federico Fernandez powered in a header to bring the score back level with just 15 minutes remaining.
A few minutes later the brilliance of Messi came shining through. Racing across the Brazilian defensive half with five minutes left, he beat three defenders at the top of the box before swerving the ball into the back of the net. The shot was so perfect that, even after seeing the replay one hundred times, I still can’t figure out how he did it. He never broke stride and never looked as if he was going to shoot. The goal was so beautiful that the full 82,000 fans in attendance stood and applauded. Despite the long rivalry and the animosity that goes with it, we all knew we had just seen something special.
After this match I believe that, should both teams build upon recent success, then we will see something very special on the playing fields of Brazil at the next World Cup in 2014.