And, suddenly, he was free. His tormentors were in a heap, the ball was in the net, and Lionel Messi was racing off towards the corner flag, chased only by delirious team-mates, unburdened at last at this World Cup.
It was only 65 minutes in, but it had seemed an age. Nothing was going right. Free-kicks had flown recklessly over the bar, darting runs had been snuffed out almost at first thought.
The Maracana, an Argentine enclave in Rio de Janeiro for the night, yearned for the little master to assume his status as the true star of this World Cup, but it was not his night. He has only scored one World Cup goal in his career, the same as Matthew Upson, and it appeared he was destined for disappointment once again.
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