The ball, delightful from Ever Banega, arrived over his shoulder, on the run. Lionel Messi watched it onto his left thigh, killed it there, let it drop to his left boot, took a perfect controlling touch and switched it, right.
Kenneth Omeruo, whose job it was to in some way harness the wind at that point, knew he was in trouble. In these moments, it is as if Messi has a way of rendering opponents powerless. He shot, across goalkeeper Francis Uzoho, and the ball moved obediently into the far corner of Nigeria’s net without further instruction. A gem of a goal from a gem of a player.
So that’s what you would have been missing. That’s what would have disappeared from this World Cup had Argentina lost on Tuesday night. Sunshine. Magic. Wonder. Ultimately, it was a fabulous volley from Manchester United’s Marcos Rojo that propelled Argentina into the final 16, but this was about him. This was about our desire for one player to stay. Save Messi. That is what the neutrals desired.