Spain coach Luis Enrique said earlier this week it would be “unfair” if Argentina great Lionel Messi were never to win the World Cup.
But the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner is running out of time and opportunities.
Alongside Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, the Qatar extravaganza will likely be the fifth and last World Cup for one of the two outstanding players of their generation — believed by many to be the two greatest footballers of all time.
Unlike previous contenders for the title of greatest of all time — Brazil’s Pele and Diego Maradona of Argentina — at least one, and maybe both, will never lift football’s greatest prize.
Yet in the case of Messi, this may well be his best chance yet to win that elusive prize.
He cut a distraught figure in 2014 after Argentina succumbed 1-0 to Germany in the final in Brazil, even briefly announcing his international retirement in 2016.
He changed his mind and last year led Argentina to their first major title in 28 years, defeating hosts Brazil in the Copa America final by the same scoreline and in the same Maracana stadium where they had floundered seven years earlier.
‘He’s a legend’
Argentina head into this tournament on the back of a 36-match unbeaten run as one of the clear favourites.
Their group does not appear, on paper at least, the most taxing.
They begin against Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, followed by clashes with Mexico and Poland.
“Argentina are one of the favourites for the whole World Cup,” said Poland forward Robert Lewandowski earlier this week.