In football, it’s customary for teammates to greet and shake hands with each other and their opponents after the final whistle, regardless of the result.
But following Argentina’s crushing 3-0 defeat at the hands of Croatia, Lionel Messi was having none of it.
A stricken Messi appeared to trudge off the pitch at Nizhny Novgorod Stadium without saying a word to anyone, never mind a handshake.
— VBL (@VBL1986) June 21, 2018
Onlookers took to Twitter to condemn the disappointing act.
Dang Messi really dashed into the locker room without congratulating any Croatian players or shaking hands. That was a tough loss but show some sportsmanship man 😩
— Gabriela Marrero (@gabrielacherie) June 21, 2018
I’m sorry but Messi has always displayed really poor sportsmanship every time I’ve watched him play
— Aamerah Tayob (@Aamerah_T) June 21, 2018
Dear #Messi, you are not a captain! A match against #Croatia, you’re showed lots of non #sportsmanship behavior. Captain’s armband gives you more pressure&you forgot how to play! Give it to f* somebody else. Then just play for ENJOY. Maybe #Argentina can win #WorldCup, after that pic.twitter.com/4MOwTqerMu
— Naranbaatar (@senor_nbr) June 21, 2018
BTW no sportsmanship by #ARG Coach and Messi went straight to locker room after the final whistle. No hand shaking or anything.
— Real Madrid (@RMadUniversal) June 21, 2018
Sampaoli and Messi and being sore losers leaving the field immediately and not shaking hands with the Croatian players! Poor sportsmanship! ⚽️⚽️#argcro
— Roderick Harper (@rodharper) June 21, 2018
Embarrassing sportsmanship from Argentina, Messi and Sampaoli to just run to the tunnel like a child.
— Sam Overton 2020 (@overton_sam) June 21, 2018
The Argentina superstar barely had an impact on a game where the perennial World Cup favourites were thoroughly outclassed by an organised Croatia side that capitalised on Argentine mistakes and chose their moments to pick them apart.
The dispiriting loss followed a World Cup opener in which Argentina was held to a 1-1 draw by World Cup minnows Iceland.
While the whole team rightfully shares the blame for Argentina’s woeful showing at this World Cup, Messi has been particularly singled out for criticism.
He is Albiceleste’s talisman and best player, but he also squandered an opportunity to win the opener against Iceland by botching a penalty kick.
After the Iceland draw, he meandered off the pitch wearing a thousand-yard stare, not unlike the expression he wore after Argentina’s loss to Germany in the World Cup final four years ago.
Or the one he wore the following year, after Argentina’s loss to Chile in the Copa America final. Or the one he wore 12 months later, when Argentina again fell to Chile in the Copa America Centenario final.
— AJ_ (@Adiana28_) June 21, 2018
In short, we’ve come to see a lot of Messi looking crestfallen when Argentina play in major tournaments. And as you might expect, it seems to be getting to him.
Following the Iceland draw, the team organized a family barbecue to celebrate Father’s Day, and perhaps to lift the mood in the camp following a disappointing, if not devastating opener.
But instead of joining his teammates in the festivities, Messi reportedly remained in his room. Alone.
Prior to the kickoff against Croatia, cameras caught the usually stoic Barcelona star looking uncharacteristically emotional as the Argentine national anthem was played.
All signs ahead of the match essentially indicated that perhaps Messi was not quite right heading into this. His performance backed up those suspicions. During the first half, he registered fewer touches than Argentina keeper, Willy Caballero, whose second-half howler gifted Croatia the opening goal. In the second half, he showed an uncharacteristic flash of temper after becoming entangled with Croatia fullback Ivan Strinic.
Alex Baker – FC Yahoo