The struggle and the destiny of Argentina’s 2022 World Cup

Harrison Hamm
10 min readDec 19, 2022

There is a sense around the world that it was destiny for Lionel Messi to win the World Cup in what might have been his final chance. The destiny played out for real, and perhaps that inevitability will define the run.

But the problem with destiny is that in the moment, no one has any idea whether it will actually work out.

Argentina’s winding and chaotic journey to the 2022 World Cup title disproves in itself any kind of red carpet path to the trophy. Their experience, the ups and downs and the near misses, shows how difficult and once-in-a-lifetime it is for individual greatness, mental fortitude, and luck to combine to win all these one-off games against elite teams in a row.

The thing with this Argentina team is that they do not blow anyone off the page in terms of talent, outside of their little maestro. If you combined Argentina and France into one team, it’s quite possible that ten starters would be French and one would be Messi.

Their deficiencies seemed worryingly fatal in the all-time upset loss against Saudi Arabia to start off the tournament. They came out firing against the vastly overmatched Saudi side, winning a penalty that was converted by Messi early in the match. But they spent the rest of the first half wasting chances by getting called offside against the Saudis’ riskily high defensive line.

A halftime adjustment by Saudi Arabia caught Argentina off guard, and suddenly the game script changed. The Saudis starting pressing, forcing a couple of sudden possession changes and then scoring on two miraculous, unlikely shots early in the half. A shocked Argentina team banged their heads against a wall for the rest of the game, losing 2–1.

It was 2018 all over again. It was a disorganized and discontented mess of a underperformers who had no idea what to do unless Messi was there to dribble past five defenders. Just like in 2018, they suffered an unfortunate result to open the group stage and started playing high-stakes matches immediately.

A win against Mexico in the next game was pretty much necessary in order to control their group destiny in the final game, and maintain a chance to win the group — and thus avoid playing France in the round of 16.