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The World Cup is rapidly drawing to a close and we already know that Argentina will form one half of the final. That prospect has blown up on social media with fans going into overdrive around the Greatest of All Time (GOAT) debate. Lionel Messi is rightly hogging the headlines with many declaring the Messi vs Ronaldo back and forth settled. Despite that, an interesting conspiracy has been posted online and whilst we take all of that with a pinch of salt, some of the accusations made do raise genuine questions.
How has Messi performed in Qatar?
The World Cup got off to a sticky start for Messi and co as they slipped to an opening game defeat to Saudi Arabia of all people. Since then though it has been a tournament full of positivity for Argentina – and Messi. The PSG forward currently leads the World
cup scoring charts with five goals whilst three assists shouldn’t go unnoticed. Three of those goals and two of those assists have all come in the knockout phase. The biggest threat to Messi winning the Golden Boot is his club teammate Kylian Mbappe.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s tournament meanwhile played out somewhat differently. His campaign burst into life as he won and then converted a penalty in the opening game; this made him the first man to score in five World Cup finals. Since then though it has all been negative press for Mr CR7. He attempted to claim a second goal of the tournament but footage seemed to show Bruno Fernandes being the scorer before Ronaldo was dropped from the round of 16 starting line up. That theme continued to the quarter-final and Ronaldo, who emerged off the bench in that game, couldn’t save them falling to a shock defeat.
A conspiracy theory favouring Messi
Whilst Messi’s numbers are unquestionably impressive, they haven’t all come from him ripping teams apart. That has led to some talk of referees giving Argentina soft decisions. As part of that, Messi and co have been awarded four penalties in Qatar with Messi taking all of them; at least half of those four spot kick awards fall into the dubious category including the one that led to the opening goal in their semi-final win over Croatia. During the ITV coverage all three pundits felt the penalty shouldn’t have been given albeit former ref Peter Walton disagreed.
💥 It's fireworks in the studio!!
❌ The pundits say no.
✅ Peter Walton says yes!
🤔 Is this a penalty for you…?#ITVFootball | #FIFAWorldCup pic.twitter.com/KSQsvhrN4Y
— ITV Football (@itvfootball) December 13, 2022
Dodging disciplinary action
It’s not just penalty awards where Argentina have had their run of the green though. A lot of noise was made following their quarter-final win over the Netherlands. Messi creates a lot of that noise with he and his teammates not quiet in their stripping down of referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz. Despite that, everyone who watches the game felt it was Argentina who benefitted from his performance. Most notable in that run was the refusal to show Messi a yellow card for the most blatant deliberate handball you’re ever likely to see. Given Messi went on to be booked later in the game, he could have ended the match being sent off!
Wouldn’t be surprised if Messi and Argentina win the World Cup, it’s too obvious that it is RIGGED for them. pic.twitter.com/WyFnniHIdh
— Exclusive Ronaldo (@XclusiveRonaldo) December 12, 2022
That Argentina vs Netherlands game didn’t just end with handball talk though. Argentina were put under severe pressure by the Dutch as they overturned a 2-0 lead. During that spell, Leandro Paredes was fortunate to avoid a second yellow card for kicking the ball into the Holland dug out and then, after the game, Messi, who had already ridden his luck, didn’t shy away from antagonising the Dutch players and bench. Again, yellow cards and post-game action have been shown for similar behaviour in the past. However, nothing came of it.
The final factor of this ‘fixed’ World Cup people have been talking about is the officiating – but not in the sense of specific decision making. Instead, Portugal players made significant complaints after their exit at the hands of Morocco owing to the fact that all the match officials come from Argentina. With Portugal and Argentina on a potential collision course for the final this was highly controversial – and not just with fans.
Portugal centre back Pepe fumed after the game stating “they can now give the title to Argentina” whilst Bruno Fernandes toed a similar line as he commented “I don’t know if they are going to give the cup to Argentina” before labelling the decision to use an Argentinian referee in Portugal’s match as “very strange”.
‘I bet Argentina will be champions’: Pepe blasts referee choice after Portugal exit https://t.co/ZMSliZx2Vc
— Sid Lowe (@sidlowe) December 11, 2022
So, is the World Cup fixed?
Given the controversial awarding of the World Cup to Qatar and everything that has followed, we guess ‘never say never’ is an apt phrase. In reality though, of course the tournament isn’t rigged in Messi’s favour. That doesn’t mean that he – and Argentina – haven’t been smiled upon by Lady Luck throughout the competition but the idea of shady FIFA figures gathering in dark corners to truly fix the tournament for him is just too far fetched.