If you're still rewinding and replaying Lionel Messi's magnificent assist vs. Croatia, this fan footage of it will knock your socks off.
The magic behind the clip is that it shows the play from its genesis and allows you to see how Messi masterminded the sequence with some small talk with Julián Álvarez near the midfield line.
Messi assist vs Croatia - New footage
Messi has been criticized countless times because he doesn't run as much as other players on the field. Some people have even called him lazy. But for Pep Guardiola, Messi's former coach at Barcelona, there's a powerful reason behind this.
"He is not out of the game. He's involved, moving his head. Right, left, left, right. He smells who is the weak point of the back four. After 5-10 minutes, he has the map. He knows if I move here, I will have more space to attack," Pep said in the documentary This is Football.
And what Messi did against Croatia in the 3-0 semifinal win reflects that quote.
The clip — shared on TikTok by user jhoner_alexis — starts with Messi without the ball and being fiercely man-marked by Croatia center back Joško Gvardiol, the best defender in the tournament. Messi knows the ball eventually needs to get to his feet, but he also feels it'll be hard to get possession with Gvardiol so close.
So, how does he solve the problem? The video shows how Messi calls Álvarez to get next to Gvardiol, then he moves away from the Croatian defender, points out the pass and suddenly — after a smart touch from Álvarez — Messi has more space to attack.
It's subtle, but it also gave Messi the slight advantage he needed to unleash what we witnessed afterward: the run, the poetry with the ball while destroying Gvardiol's soul and the final assist to Álvarez that we'll never forget.
The work of a genius; the work of arguably the best player of all time.