What happened in the absence of a playmaker was that Lionel Messi had to drop increasingly deep to pick the ball up, allowing the German midfield and defence to isolate the players beyond him, leaving him without much options. Messi played well - avoiding plenty of tackles and passing better than anyone for Argentina - but was unable to make the difference. Sadly, there are already signs that could be overlooked after his best performances for Argentina: Olé's website was running a story on his 'failure' at this World Cup within an hour of the final whistle.Riding the wave of the Barça season, anything less than a trophy was going to be a disappointment for Messi and Argentina, but no one should consider this a Ronaldo- or Rooney-esque letdown. He didn't find the net, but Messi was at times brilliant, and never an empty shell.
Regarding the touches, this has long seemed to the biggest problem with Argentina (and a further illustration of how perfectly Xavi and Messi's talents fit together). Against the best teams, he either doesn't get the number of touches he does with Barcelona, or, as has seemed the case more recently, he gets plenty of the ball, but 40 yards from the goal instead of 20. The first two touches Messi had in the Germany game were illustrative: one was just over the midfield line, the other was just outside of Argentina's box. If he was going to score against Germany, it was almost going to have to be a repeat of Maradona's Goal of the Century, which of course isn't likely to be repeated very often. In other words, his performance was much better than it was consequential. Hopefully, in the next four years, Argentina can find or develop itself a brilliant playmaker.
Kelly also says that for all of the silliness from Maradona, and all of the team's struggles in qualifying, Argentina didn't underperform. Anything beyond a quarterfinal exit (and a mostly competitive one until the final stretch) would have been a lot to expect for a team of Argentina's midfield and defense. Great teams can't just be great on the attack.