#WorldCupAtHome: Youthful Messi dazzles against Brazil

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Lionel Messi exploded on to the international stage with Argentina at the FIFA World Youth Championship – now known as the FIFA U-20 World Cup – the tournament where he also celebrated his 18th birthday.

Indeed, it was while wearing the No18 shirt in the Netherlands that La Pulga showed the watching world just why he was tipped for greatness. The semi-final against Brazil was one of his first major tests with La Albiceleste, and one Messi passed with flying colours.

The summary

Argentina 2-1 Brazil
28 June, Galgenwaard Stadium, Utrecht

Argentina: Messi (7′) Zabaleta (90’+3′)
Brazil: Renato (75′)

Line-ups:
Argentina: Oscar Ustari; Julio Barroso, Gustavo Cabral, Gabriel Paletta, Lautaro Formica; Juan Manuel Torres, Pablo Zabaleta, Fernando Gago, Neri Cardozo; Lionel Messi, Gustavo Oberman. Coach: Francisco Ferraro

Brazil: Renan; Raphael, Leonardo, Edcarlos, Fabio Santos; Roberto; Renato, Arouca, Evandro; Rafael Sobis, Bobo. Coach: Rene Weber

The stakes

Following a defeat to USA in their opening game, coach Francisco Ferraro put Messi into the starting line-up and Argentina hit their stride. After finishing second in his group, an increasingly influential Messi helped them past Colombia in the Round of 16 and Spain in the quarter-finals, setting up a semi-final showdown with Brazil and a chance to exact revenge on their arch-rivals for a defeat inflicted by them at the same stage of the previous edition in 2003.

Brazil, who had won their group and seen off China PR and Germany en route to the last four, went into the game intent on moving a step closer to retaining the world title secured two years earlier in the United Arab Emirates.

The story

Messi makes the difference
There was little separating the sides during an even and occasionally fractious first half – little that is except a stroke of genius from the Rosario native. In a move that would become his trademark in years to come, he swerved in from the right to a central position before unleashing with his left foot – on this occasion an unstoppable rising effort that flew past the helpless Renan into the top corner.

Brazil deliver from dead ball
Just as it had in their previous games, a set-piece paid dividends for Brazil. When a 75th-minute free-kick was floated into box, Renato beat Zabaleta to the ball to send his glancing header just inside Ustari’s right-hand post.

Wizard and worker combine
Just when extra time seemed inevitable, a quick throw-in found Messi bombing down the left flank. Side stepping one tackle on the edge of the area, he continued to the byline before pulling the ball back. A debuting Sergio Aguero failed to connect with it but not Zabaleta, who steered the ball home from close range to send his side into the final.

Lionel Messi is seen in action against Brazil at the 2005 Youth Championship

The star

Far from being burdened by the captaincy and media spotlight, Messi seemed to thrive on it. He marked his stellar performance in the semi-final by scoring for the third successive game and providing a wonderful assist for the winning goal.

What they said

“It was a tough game with a lot of hard work and focus on our tactics. We ceded possession to Brazil but only in certain areas, beyond which we pressed them and hit them on the break.”
Francisco Ferraro, Argentina coach

“I’m frustrated because the second goal was the result of carelessness rather than Argentina’s superiority in the match. It wasn’t a great game as our opponents opted to defend and wait for a mistake from us. They were not concerned with playing attractive football.”
Rene Weber, Brazil coach

Lionel Messi Golden Ball at FIFA U-20 World Cup 2005

What happened next

With another superb performance from Messi in the final, capped by two goals from the penalty spot, Argentina defeated Nigeria 2-1 to claim the U-20 world title for the fifth time. La Pulga also won the adidas Golden Ball as best player, and the Golden Boot as top scorer (six goals).

FIFA World Youth Championship Netherlands 2005, Final: Argentina - Nigeria



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