Facing Messi... The experience!

There are some experiences or moments in one’s career that are only dreamt of. Some are realized and some remain being chased after. On June 4th, 2014, a group of this country’s most capable footballers stepped side by side with one of the greatest footballers ever seen and rated as the best in the modern game.

National team midfielder Khaleem Hyland described the experience as a major highlight in his career so far. Hyland played for T&T at the FIFA Under 20 World Cup in 2009, scored a goal in World Cup qualifying for the 2010 World Cup against Honduras and has appeared in the UEFA Champions League with Racing Genk against teams such as Chelsea, Valencia and Bayer Leverkusen.

“It definitely was a dream come true to play against my second best player I love to see play the game today,” Hyland told TTFA Media.

“What I thought about him as a player just observing him in matches was experienced in real time in this match and I picked up quite a few more things,” said the Carenage-born player.

Hyland noted that Messi spoke very few times on the field. He hardly ever called for the ball yet he was always found by his teammates and was able to control so much of Argentina’s game. He's what you call a silent assassin on the battle field.

“He's always calm and focused on the pitch and makes things happen from nothing. He has a change of pace when running with the ball like no one else I had played against or seen,” Hyland noted.

Another observation was that Messi walked at a brisk pace for large periods of the game particularly when Argentina were not attacking T&T’s goal. But when the ball came to his feet, the script changed

“He looks like if he’s not interested in having the ball but then suddenly he comes to life as he gets it and then his game changes instantly. He does not communicate on the pitch with the other players and he does not react at all if he receives a kick or a tackle.”

Hyland said the experience for the entire T&T team was second to none and he hopes there will be a continuation of intense preparation and quality international warm-up matches ahead for the “Warriors” leading up to the 2018 World Cup qualification.

“For me it was a test with joy to see where I am on a personal level in my game and how far I have to go again to be better. Games like this one against Argentina and when we played Iran will only boost the team and help us improve and become more efficient and ready as a team for the Russia campaign. You see what the other teams in Concacaf are doing at the World Cup. We’ve showed some positive signs but we have a lot more work to do and we do need a lot more of this kind of preparation and matches if we are to be serious contenders in Concacaf again,,” Hyland stated.

Messi later commended the T&T team for their courageous and defensive efforts in the encounter at the Estadio Monumental. Messi has so far scored four goals at the World Cup including an assist against Switzerland on Tuesday to push his team through to the quarter-finals.