Why everybody loves Leo

The Rio Report

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Lionel Messi of Argentina reacts during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group F match between Argentina and Bosnia-Herzegovina at Maracana on June 15, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

After the last World Cup finals in South Africa, FIFA released a statement announcing that half of humankind had tuned into a watch a match or two. We reckon they all caught a glimpse of Lionel Messi.

The other 3.5 billion weren’t watching because they weren't born yet, were back on nights, were getting their hair done or were caught up on a World of Warcraft mission during Argentina's games. Either that, or the other half of the globe are closet Cristiano Ronaldo fans.

When over three billion of the citizens on planet football - sorry, earth - watch a sports event, you know you have a fairly important little party on your hands. So what a time for Leo to gatecrash it.

This staging of the 20th World Cup is on its way to being the greatest of all-time. The goals can’t come quickly enough. We’ve already had more than double the number - 37 goals in 11 games - we had when it was time for Africa four years ago.

For the first time in 80 years, since 1934, there are no draws in the first 11 matches.

We’re not sure if teams can’t, or won’t defend, but we aren’t complaining. Crucially, the big names seem to be delivering. And they don't come any bigger than Leo.

The icing on the pudding could well be a final between fierce South American foes Brazil v Argentina on July 13 at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro. The cherry on top of it all would be Messi wowing this World Cup in a manner not seen since Diego Maradona’s antics in Mexico.

Neymar versus Messi for the world’s greatest prize sounds about right. While Neymar is the tournament poster boy, Messi has touched down in Brazil trying to earn his place in history as the greatest we’ve witnessed.

If he can emulate Maradona’s feat in dragging Argentina to their last World Cup success in 1986, we’ve no doubt that Messi can claim the only remaining moniker to elude him.

With or without lifting the World Cup, we think the Barcelona magician is already in the same class as Maradona and Pele, but his glorious goal against Bosnia and Herzogovina on Sunday illustrated the good feeling around the world that exists towards the little man.

People want this little fellow to succeed so badly it hurts. It makes you want to give Uri Geller a call to try to will him to do great things for us all. It must be bad when you are contemplating giving Uri Geller a bell.

We’re sure Trappist monks across the world were breaking their vows of silence last night to discuss Messi’s goal at the Marcana. And why not.

Legs pumping like pistons, he plays a lovely little one-two with Gonzalo Higuain before finishing his slalom run by sending the football crashing into the net via a post on 65 minutes. From 20 yards or so, he makes it look like he he is passing the ball back.

Poor goalkeeper Asmir Begovic does well to get near the shot because not once during the move does Messi look at the goal to dictate where he is going to put it. It was his first goal at the tournament since 2006.

The world suddenly seems like a brighter place this Monday morning courtesy of Leo's contribution to the World Cup. So enjoy the working week fellow human beings. Brazil 2014 and Leo are alive and kicking.

Here are a selection of the best comments from Twitter about Lionel's glorious statement of intent.

First up is one that will tug at the heartstrings. He obviously missed this kid offering a handshake before the match, but we reckon Leo would sort out the dazzled youngster with some Argentina kit if he gets in touch with the country’s training camp. He probably has a bit of Adidas clobber that would fit the lad.

Elsewhere, Twitter simply went into meltdown in reaction to Messi’s magic.

But it seems like you can’t please everybody. Here is one from a hard-to-please Juandi that sounds about as perceptive as Jonathan Pearce tackling goal-line technology.

Just that goal and the man of the match award? Ah well. Must do better. Better luck next time, Leo.

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