Lionel Messi’s smile laid to rest in France’s victory over Argentina

After his side crashed out of the World Cup, Messi will have been left wondering whether he should have returned to lead Argentina’s bereft finals showing in Russia

As Argentina’s defenders punted the ball from net to centre circle for the third time, Lionel Messi gazed down with hands on hips and you wondered who he would be more tempted to curse.

Would a stray dark thought double down on the figure of Franco Armani, who had just let Kylian Mbappé’s shot through his legs to undo the work – and it had not all been good – that Argentina had put in so far? Perhaps a special place in hell would be reserved for Jorge Sampaoli for giving him such Atlas-like responsibility and styling a side that, behind their figurehead, appeared bereft from the get-go. Or maybe there would be harsh self?flagellation, wondering exactly what he had been doing when, persuaded by Edgardo Bauza, he reversed his decision to retire from international football two years ago.

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