Apple TV+’s latest documentary, Messi’s World Cup: The Rise of a Legend, recounts the 2022 tournament in Qatar that Argentina won dramatically. The series debuts on Apple TV+ on Wednesday, Feb. 21. Told over four episodes, the documentary series goes through the lows of losing to Saudi Arabia before the highs of lifting Argentina’s third World Cup. All four episodes are available on Apple TV+ beginning Wednesday.

However, this is not a documentary series about Argentina. Rather, it pertains to the team’s star player. Throughout the documentary, the producers rely on interviews with Messi from before and after the World Cup. Also, lengthy discussions with Angel Di Maria, Enzo Fernandez, Rodrigo de Paul, Emiliano Martinez, Lionel Scaloni and others help tell the story of how Messi conquered his long-coveted international trophy. One theme that stands out is that the players wanted to win for Messi, and that is a feeling that extends to the producers of the documentary.

Juan Camilo Cruz Orrego, one of the executive producers of the documentary, said, “It was a dream come true for any filmmaker. It is a story that was going to happen once in a lifetime. We were very aware that we had the top athlete in the world looking to achieve his dream. For us, it played naturally. It had to be done, and we were the lucky ones to do it.”

Filmmaker Jenna Millman echoed those sentiments. “Who says no to doing a documentary about the GOAT climbing the one mountain he hasn’t yet reached the peak of?”

Messi World Cup documentary thrives with unseen footage and interviews

One of the most compelling storytelling aspects of the documentary series was the use of anecdotes from Argentina. Live reactions in Argentina to the loss to Saudi Arabia or the dramatic win over France in the World Cup Final help the viewer to get the full understanding of the emotion as it happened. These clips, videos and pictures separate it from simply watching the World Cup all over again. All kinds of people, not just soccer fans, know Messi won the World Cup. What people do not know is how Messi acted in Argentina’s training camp or how he felt about the altercation with Wout Weghorst that went viral.

Although Messi’s interviews are expected in a documentary about the Argentine, it is worth a watch anytime he comes on. The always-quiet superstar is surprisingly open in his cameos on screen. It complements the documentary’s inclusion of behind-the-scenes looks. Diving into Messi’s comments on “Que miras, bobo?” is not only entertaining. It is insightful to see one of the tensest moments in Messi’s vaunted career. Seeing more footage of Messi interacting with Weghorst was one of the most fascinating moments of the documentary series.

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Perhaps too in-depth at times

There is a finite amount of time to work within a four-part documentary series where each episode is just 45 minutes. At times, the documentary goes into such detail on things that seem otherwise superficial to the story of the World Cup. For example, the documentary goes into extensive detail about concepts outside the World Cup in the third episode. It is almost jarring when the focus returns to the World Cup. That is not inherently bad, the outside storylines pull in the viewer further. However, this impacts other parts of the World Cup story.

For example, the documentary breezes over two of the four knockout stages in the World Cup. Certain games are worth more time, absolutely. The opener against Saudi Arabia, the emotional Netherlands game and the World Cup Final could demand entire documentaries of their own. However, the harrowing moments against Australia did not feature. Then, there was only a slight mention of the semifinal against Croatia. To be fair, though, those games did not stack up to the quarterfinal and final of the World Cup.

Finally, with mentions of Messi’s burden from losing in the Copa America in 2015 and 2016, it could be argued that including the 2021 Copa America triumph is also important. That victory lifted the pressure of the lack of international trophies with Argentina. That may seem contradictory, as it does not pertain to the World Cup. However, it would have aligned with the discussion of Copa America failures.

Regardless, the documentary series is greatly entertaining. It thrives in demonstrating the bond Messi had with his teammates and coaches. That is something otherwise unseen just by watching the games.

PHOTO: IMAGO

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