Euro 2016 and the Copa America Centenario have come to a close, providing Portugal and Chile with much reason to celebrate. As for the other nations involved? Well, that would all depend on which country you’ve decided to ask. Each competition featured a scoreless draw final match, extra time and the runners-up being sent off into a deep state of despair.
As we enter the portion of the calendar with major summer tournaments completed and preseason friendlies for European squads getting under way, we take a hypothetical trip into the impossible today. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo were on opposite ends of the spectrum this year when it came to how their respective tournaments finished out.
But would that have changed if they were on opposite teams?
We would probably need our old friend Sepp Blatter (aka Big Poppa Sepp) to snap his fingers and make this crazy one happen, but Messi on Portugal and Ronaldo on Argentina would be interesting to say the least.
Messi working in unison with Nani and Joao Moutinho, feeding assists to Ricardo Quaresma and Eder and basically working his mighty magic all over Europe would be some sight. On the other side of the hemisphere, we find CR7 leading a star-studded line with Gonzalo Higuain and Kun Aguero. Ezequiel Lavezzi can join him on the wings and with Angel Di Maria pulling the strings in the midfield, Argentina are scoring goals at a blistering pace in South America.
Tactically, Ronaldo would insert well into the 4-3-3 formation that Argentina normally utilizes. His size and strength pairing with Higuain would give the squad quite an intimidating presence up top and his free kicks would certainly serve as a lightning bolt for the offense.
Messi’s place in Portugal’s side would be slightly different, with the Barcelona man likely playing centrally instead of out wide. With Nani and Quaresma on the flanks and Eder at centre forward. Messi could settle into a true #10 role and wreak havoc all over the opposing teams’ half of the field. He would be involved at all levels of the attack and free kicks from a booming left boot would remain his specialty.
Ronaldo may fit a little better into Argentina’s team, but Messi would certainly still make Portugal a force to be reckoned with.
International politics can put a unique spin on every national team, with Argentina and Portugal both being great examples of how there are many factors outside the game as well as inside that influence results.
Federation corruption, financial issues and pressure from supporters can make leading La Albiceleste a difficult task. This past Copa America has pushed many players to the brink, with Messi and others stating that they will be walking away from the squad. The raw emotion that they showed after the loss to Chile in the final illustrates this feeling perfectly.
Portugal, on the other hand, seemed to use their underdog status at Euro 2016 to rally together and focus on each and every game. Fans and supporters seemed to truly just enjoy the ride, keeping expectations realistic throughout. When they escaped the group stage, the players truly bought into manager Fernando Santos’ defensive plan and banded together to achieve their championship goals.
Could Messi have thrived in this atmosphere? And would Ronaldo have been able to rise above the intense pressure and problems brought on by the Argentinian FA?
At the end of the day, the results would have stayed the same at both tournaments. The pressure that Argentina felt in that final, just as they had the two previous summers, could not have been broken. You could see it in the tense and lost looks from the players as the match wore on. The issue was greater than just the two players we’ve spoken about and highlighted here.
Portugal, however, captured a European Championship much the same way Greece did in 2004. The team crafted a defensive and careful approach to every game, sat back and waited for their chances. They had their plan and they were sticking to it, regardless of the talent on their roster. While this didn’t give us many exciting matches, the results backed up their schemes.
While Ronaldo did have flashes of brilliance against Hungary and Wales, it was a team effort that guided Portugal to the final and they ultimately proved it by beating France without him. One must assume that Messi could have found his own special moments to get A Selecao there as well.
Would Argentina have won Copa America with Ronaldo? Would Portugal still have won Euro 2016 with Messi? Let us know what you think! Tweet @FutbolNetwork
Roy Emanuel, TFN International Correspondent on 14/07/2016 at 13:14
Follow Roy on Twitter @roy13a