Lionel Messi, controversial winner of the Golden Ball for the World Cup’s best player, believes Argentina had enough clear chances to have beaten Germany in Sunday’s final.
The Argentina captain, who had carried his nation’s hopes through the group stages but looked listless in the semi-final and final, admitted Germany had more of the ball but said his team had the better chances.
“We deserved a bit more after the match we played,” Messi said. “It’s very painful to lose in the manner that we did because we were so close to penalties. I think that in this World Cup we deserved a different [outcome] because we had the chances.”
Messi was unable to smile even as he collected the Golden Ball trophy little more than seven minutes after Mario Götze had scored the goal to break Argentina’s resolve.
Diego Maradona, among others, has questioned whether Messi was the best player on show in Brazil. Fifa’s president, Sepp Blatter, described himself as “a little bit surprised” by the selection. Argentina’s coach, Alejandro Sabella, was among those who backed Fifa’s choice.
“In these moments the prize doesn’t interest me at all,” Messi said. “We wanted to take home the trophy and enjoy it with all the people in Argentina. We got to the final and it’s a long time since Argentina got past the semi-finals. Now we carry with us the disappointment of not being able to win the match.”
The Barcelona striker pinpointed three clear chances that could have won the game – Gonzalo Higuaín’s one-on-one with the goalkeeper in the first half, his own second-half shot that was narrowly wide of Manuel Neuer’s left-hand post and Rodrigo Palacio’s attempt to poke the ball into the net at the start of extra-time.
“They had more of the ball but we had the better chances,” he said. “I think that at the end we didn’t get the luck that we needed. The chances we created were clear. We had three clear ones – mine, the one of Higuaín and Rodrigo – but we could not finish them. Now we have to move on.”
The midfield anchor Javier Mascherano, who stepped up to lead Argentina as Messi’s influence waned, said that the experience of their run to the final would help the squad in future.
“As a group we are a unit, we are unstoppable and we have shown that,” he said. “We were at a low but we ended up playing a World Cup final against Germany and we had a real chance of winning.”
Mascherano also gave “eternal thanks” to the 100,000 or more Argentinians who flooded into Rio to back their team.
The goalkeeper Sergio Romero, his nation’s penalty hero against Holland in the semi-finals, also paid tribute to the fans and said there was more to come from the younger players in the side.
“I think we can build on this,” he said. “There are some young players in this squad who showed plenty of quality and personality, and who weren’t weighed down by the shirt. We achieved our objective of getting Argentina in the top four, which is why we’re going home with our heads held high, even if we’re not smiling.”