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Argentina’s Messi ends with whimper, not bang

– Lionel Messi’s final act in the 2014 World Cup was lifting a free kick high over the bar, wasting Argentina’s last chance to equalize in the final against Germany.

It was far from a fitting finish for the four-time world player of the year.

This was supposed to be Messi’s World Cup, just like the 1986 tournament belonged to another Argentine great, Diego Maradona.

But after carrying his team through the group stage in Brazil with four goals, Messi seemed to run out of steam.

In the final Sunday, he created chances but, like the rest of the team, lacked the finishing touch to turn the game for Argentina.

He was a picture of disappointment after the 1-0 loss as he collected the trophy for the tournament’s best player.

“I’m hurt for losing the way we did. We were close to penalties,” Messi said. “I think we deserved a little better, we had chances.”

Messi has won everything there is to win with club team Barcelona, but many critics say he needs a World Cup title to be considered among football’s all-time greats.

“He’s been there for quite a while already, in the pantheon of the greats,” Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella said, when asked to compare Messi with players like Maradona and Brazilian legend Pele.

Messi stood out in an otherwise mediocre Argentine team in the group stage, scoring against Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iran and twice against Nigeria. The free kick he curled inside Nigeria goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama’s left post was a masterpiece. Then, game by game, Messi’s influence started waning.

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