Lionel Messi leaves Roy Keane agreeing with two colleagues over genius status as pundit admits Argentina World Cup hope

Lionel Messi celebrating for Argentina at World Cup

Lionel Messi put in a sensational display to inspire Argentina to the World Cup final by beating Croatia – and three ITV pundits agreed he is a genius afterwards.

Argentina beat Croatia 3-0 on Tuesday to book their place in Sunday’s World Cup final. Messi opened the scoring from the penalty spot in the 34th minute to overtake the legendary Gabriel Batistuta as his country’s best ever goalscorer at the World Cup.

Manchester City forward Julian Alvarez went on to add two more goals for the South Americans, with the latter set up by Messi following a sensational run in which he completely got the better of Josko Gvardiol.

The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner was a class above and now has the chance to cement his legendary status by aiming to lift the World Cup for the first time in his career.

After the full-time whistle, the ITV studio was full of praise for the Paris Saint-Germain superstar.

Ian Wright began: “In 2014, I think he was player of the tournament in that one. Didn’t quite work out for him in 2018.

“The pressure he’s come into this one with, maybe his last one, people talking about the team, are they good enough, losing the first game – saw that happen with Spain in South Africa and then getting to the final. Obviously Spain went over the line.

“I think the manager got it totally right today, his tactics, nullifying their midfield and keeping it narrow.”

Gary Neville followed: “It was a moment of genius that third goal, absolutely unbelievable. They’ve got 10 fighters, who were scrapping like hell for them, and they’ve got a genius up front who is delivering magical moments as he has been for the last 10, 15 years.

“They’ve got the best fans in the tournament as well. It’s all coming together for Argentina. They’ve grown in the tournament.”

The ex-Manchester United defender added of Messi’s hopes of winning the World Cup: “It’s a mission. It’s one that he’s delivering on his own at the moment.”

Roy Keane hails ‘absolutely fantastic’ Lionel Messi

Next to comment was Roy Keane, who felt privileged to be watching Messi’s greatness. Indeed, the Irishman hopes Argentina go all the way after being inspired this far by their number 10.

Keane said: “Do you know what, it’s a pleasure to watch him live, it really is. Obviously we played at a really good level, but the level he’s at, against his age, even the third goal, he’s doing that against some brilliant players, really good players.

“Honestly, it’s brilliant. Absolutely fantastic. What a player, and do you know what, I really hope he goes on to win the World Cup. I think that would be the icing on the cake for the man. He’s just fantastic, consistency.

“Listen, we’d be here all night talking about the awards he’s won. He’s lifted that group of players. They’ve had a couple of setbacks already. The reaction after giving up the two-goal lead against Holland to me summed up that team. They were on their knees but they found a way to win the game.

“Tonight they ended up making it very very comfortable. But the biggest compliment, as I said, I feel very privileged to be watching him.”

He added: “When you see the player live and what you’re seeing him doing against really good players, we’ve seen it for years, sometimes you need a reminder.

“What we saw tonight, the player… you can come out with these words, geniuses…”

Finally, Wright asserted the belief that Messi is indeed a genius. Crucially, though, the Arsenal legend thinks Argentina have found the right balance around him.

He concluded: “They’ve got a genius there with them and it’s like we said at the start, they’ve got a team around him now, that are fighting tooth and nail to obviously win the World Cup, not only for themselves but to make sure this guy is cemented.”

Messi and his compatriots will find out on Wednesday whether they will be against the reigning champions, France, or a possible first African finalist, Morocco, in Sunday’s showpiece match for the trophy.

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