LIONEL Messi found Ezequiel Lavezzi in space on the right, and his cross was side footed home by Gonzalo Higuain, who ran away to celebrate like a madman, believing that he had put Argentina ahead against Germany in the 2014 World Cup final.
Chelsea’s recent signing continued his celebrations while the game carried on without him. The flag was up. The goal – correctly – had been ruled out for offside.
The moment serves as a symbol of Higuain’s international career, which came to an end with the announcement late last week of his retirement from Argentina duty.
“I believe that my cycle in the national team has come to an end,” he said, “to the happiness of many.”
Higuain has 32 goals in 75 matches – a thoroughly respectable tally.
Only five men have scored more times for Argentina (for the record, Messi, Batistuta, Aguero, Crespo and Maradona).
But as Higuain commented, “people remember the ones you missed, not those that you scored.
“I’m sure that those who criticized me celebrated my goal against Belgium [in the 2014 World Cup] that got us into the semi finals.”
I believe that my cycle in the national team has come to an end, to the happiness of many.”
But whatever he did in a quarter final could never be good enough.
The South Americans have become the nearly men
Argentina have been waiting for a senior title since 1993. Three times in three years they came close to lifting a trophy.
Every time – in the final – the big chance fell to Higuain. Every time he missed it.
It is easy to explain the wildness of his celebrations after that goal that never was against Germany in 2014.
Apart from the obvious importance of the occasion, it was the moment when Higuain believed he had wiped the slate clean.
A few minutes earlier he latched on to an awful Tony Kroos back header.
He was one on one with the goalkeeper. But seemingly rushed and disorientated, his shot went wide.
The following year Argentina were hot favourites in the final of the Copa America against hosts Chile.
Messi, though, was shackled for most of the game. Right at the end, though, he got away. He fed Lavezzi, this time on the left.
He squared across the face of the goal, and Higuain, possibly carrying a little too much weight, got there fractionally late and could not steer his sliding shot the right side of the post.
It was the clearest chance of a tight game – which went to a penalty shoot out.
Higuain blasted over, and Alexis Sanchez made sure of Chile’s first piece of serious silverware.
A year later, a special centenary version of the Copa America was held in the USA. The same two sides met in the final.
Again it was very tight. But there was a glaring early chance to open the match up.
Higuain robbed Gary Medel, and was through with only Claudio Bravo to beat.
He went for a little dink, which drifted wide of the far post. The chance was gone, the game drifted to another 0-0 draw, with Chile again winning on penalties.
Much more than all of the goals he scored for his country, these are the moments that stick in the Argentine mind.
For some the lack of an international title is the only thing that comes between Lionel Messi and the crown of the best player in the history of the game – which leaves some cruel fingers pointing in Higuain’s direction.
Why Maradona will always be a hero to Argie fans
The case of Diego Maradona seems appropriate. In his epic 1986 World Cup campaign, Maradona hit extraordinary heights against England and Belgium in the quarter and semi finals.
But in the decider against the West Germans, he was well shackled by Lothar Mathaus.
The Germans had pulled back from two goals down to equalise. The game seemed to be going their way.
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And then Maradona made his contribution, coming up with a superb defence splitting pass that put Jorge Burruchaga through on goal.
Had he missed, had Germany completed their comeback and won the game, the Maradona story would have lost some of its shine.
But he fired home. Argentina were champions. The Diego Maradona legacy was secure. But he had Burruchaga. Lionel Messi had Gonzalo Huguain.