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Will Messi finally win the World Cup?

lionel messi running on the field

This weekend, the Argentine icon can win football’s biggest and its greatest prize, the world cup. Will he?

Lionel Messi has performed his signature wizardry in Qatar to propel Argentina to the verge of World Cup victory, RT reports.

The Argentine captain has enlivened the tournament over the past month with five goals, three assists, and a number of brilliant performances.

The star, who is 35 years old, has stated that this will be his final World Cup appearance; Sunday’s match against France represents his last opportunity to win the only major trophy that has eluded him throughout his illustrious career.

He is the best player of his generation and possibly of all time for the famous blue and white of La Albiceleste.

He is Argentina’s all-time leader in goals scored with 96 and their all-time leader in appearances with 171.

He is expected to break the current tie with German legend Lothar Matthaus for the most World Cup appearances on Sunday, surpassing the current mark of 25.

messi celebrates after scoring goal at world cup game in qatar.

Messi has been cast as living in the shadow of the last man to lead Argentina to the World Cup, the late, great Diego Maradona, despite his numbers and achievements.

The Argentinian has the opportunity to match the accomplishment that Maradona accomplished in 1986 and to conclude a difficult 17-year international career.

Even for a player as preternaturally gifted as he is, the long road to Sunday’s championship match at the Lusail Stadium has been a bumpy one.

Early beginnings of Lionel Messi

If Spanish football officials had their way, his international career could have taken a very different path.

After he moved to Barcelona as a child and became a child prodigy at their legendary La Masia academy, officials reportedly made informal attempts to recruit him for the Spanish national team.

However, he was loyal to his birth country, and his future with Argentina was cemented by his 2004 appearances with the U20 squad.

His youth accomplishments as a world champion U20 earned him a call-up to Jose Pekerman’s senior team.

He made his debut on August 17, 2005, as a substitute in a friendly against Hungary in Budapest; however, what should have been a momentous occasion ended in tears when he was sent off after only forty seconds.

Nevertheless, his fortunes improved when he made his starting debut against Peru in a World Cup qualifier and won the penalty kick that gave the Albiceleste the victory.

Pekerman had previously referred to him as a “jewel,” and on March 1, 2006, he scored his first goal for Argentina against Croatia in a friendly.

Bitter taste

His progression continued as he was selected for the Argentina squad for the 2006 World Cup in Germany – a tournament he arrived at as the champion of the Champions League with Barcelona despite missing the final against Arsenal due to injury.

When he entered the game against Serbia in the group stage, he became the youngest player in tournament history to represent Argentina.

In a matter of minutes, he assisted on Argentina’s fourth goal and scored their sixth in a rout, becoming the youngest scorer in that World Cup edition.

He started his first World Cup game in the final group match against the Netherlands, which ended scoreless, and also started the quarterfinal victory over Mexico.

Pekerman snubbed him for a 4-2 penalty shootout loss to hosts Germany in the quarterfinals, much to the chagrin of Argentine fans and commentators.

He was then 20 years old and was one of the best players in the world at the 2007 Copa America.

Under Pekerman’s successor, Alfio Basile, Argentina was the favorite in Venezuela, and he scored in the quarterfinals against Peru and the semifinals against Mexico.

In the final, however, Argentina was defeated by a second-string Brazil squad by a score of 3-0, and he suffered his first major defeat in national team colors – a portent of things to come at the premier South American tournament.

Until Pep Guardiola intervened, Barcelona attempted to prevent him from representing Argentina at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

He exacted a measure of retribution against Brazil as Argentina routed them 3-0 in the semifinal before claiming the gold with a 1-0 victory over Nigeria in the championship match.

Under the influence of Maradona

He had already won two Champions Leagues with Barcelona and received his first Ballon d’Or in 2009, making comparisons to Diego Maradona difficult to avoid.

He even replicated Maradona’s famous 1986 World Cup goal when he scored in a 2007 Copa del Rey match against Getafe at Camp Nou.

But until he could perform on the grandest stage for his country, many believed he was not ready to join the pantheon of such greats of the game as the man regarded by many of his countrymen as the “God” of football.

diego maradona celebrates holding world cup in mexico.

His next failure with Argentina would occur at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, with Maradona as his manager.

In the quarterfinals of the 2014 World Cup, a young German squad outclassed Argentina by a score of 4-0. This was Argentina’s worst loss since 1974.

He fell short of expectations, being unable to lead an average team to the championship and leaving South Africa without scoring a goal.

He struggled to transfer his performances to the national team, resulting in allegations that he cared more about the club than the country.

He and Argentina were booed by their own fans during the 2011 Copa America, which now seems inconceivable.

Although he assisted the equalizer in the quarterfinals, Argentina was ultimately eliminated by eventual champion Uruguay on penalty kicks.

Almost there

He finally seized the initiative at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

After an injury-plagued season with Barcelona, he did not arrive in the best shape despite being the Argentine team captain at the time.

In spite of this, he scored four goals en route to the final against Germany, positioning himself to fulfill what many believed was his destiny: to end Argentina’s World Cup drought.

He failed to make his mark in the championship game, and Mario Gotze’s goal in extra time gave Germany the victory.

One of the most enduring images of the tournament depicted a gaunt Messi walking past the famous World Cup trophy as he collected his runner-up medal – so close, yet so far away.

He departed Brazil with the Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player, but without the prize he desired most.

Undesirable results at Copa America

He led Argentina to another Copa America final in 2015, reuniting with his former Barca coach, Tata Martino.

However, the past would repeat itself. He was the only player to score a penalty in Argentina’s 4-1 loss to Chile in a shootout. He was unable to break through the Chilean defense in the championship game.

He was criticized for failing to win the championship and for alleged indiscretions, such as not singing the national anthem with the same fervor as Maradona did in his day.

A year later, in 2016, he had the opportunity to redeem himself during the Centennial edition of the Copa America on American soil.

After missing Argentina’s first group game, he scored a hat-trick in 19 minutes as a substitute in a 5-0 victory against Panama.

argentin copa america cup

With a 0-0 draw and a penalty shootout loss to Chile in the final, Argentina endured a reoccurring pattern of misery, akin to Groundhog Day.

He was unable to endure the setback and promptly announced his international retirement.

“I exerted every effort. For me, the team is over, a decision has been made,” he protested.

It appeared that his relationship with his country would never culminate in a major championship.

However, he eventually felt the affection of the Argentine public, who campaigned for him to remain.

Lionel Messi is the greatest thing we have in Argentina, and we must take care of him, demanded former President Mauricio Macri.

He would reverse his decision and return for Argentina’s qualification campaign for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, declaring, “My love for my country and this shirt is too strong.”

Disaster in Russia

Until Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick against Ecuador in the South American qualification group, Argentina was in danger of missing the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

But when they arrived in Russia, they were met with additional World Cup disappointment.

The national media even held a mock funeral and a minute of silence for Jorge Sampaoli’s underachievers following Argentina’s 3-0 loss to eventual champions Croatia in the group stage.

Messi showed he still had something left in the tank by scoring a goal of the tournament candidate against Nigeria to advance Argentina to the round of 16, but that was as far as they would go.

A 4-3 loss by the eventual champions France felt like a passing of the torch to golden boy Kylian Mbappe, as Messi’s future on the sport’s biggest international stage was uncertain.

Cursed no more

In 2019, failure in Russia was followed by additional misery at Copa America.

Messi was banned after criticizing match officials in the aftermath of Argentina’s 2-0 semifinal loss to eventual champions and hosts Brazil in Belo Horizonte.

It appeared that even Messi’s prodigious talent would not be enough to end Argentina’s nearly 30-year wait for a major championship.

Messi’s international career was revitalized by Lionel Scaloni’s management of Argentina at the 2021 Copa America in Brazil, which broke the curse.

Messi was exceptional as Argentina defeated Brazil in the Maracana final, winning 1-0 and ending a 28-year drought without a major trophy.

After losing three Copa America finals and one World Cup final, Messi’s tears were of joy this time.

The Road to Qatar: His Final World Cup

The Copa America victory was a watershed moment that signaled a shift in Messi, national team supporters, and the Argentina camp as they prepared for the 2022 World Cup.

Messi indicated on the eve of the tournament in Qatar that it would be his final World Cup, heightening the narrative and motivating his teammates to do everything they could not only for their nation but also for their talisman.

Even after a tumultuous loss to Saudi Arabia in their opening match in Qatar, which ended a 36-match unbeaten streak, captain Messi urged supporters to stick with Scaloni’s squad.

Messi scored a textbook left-footed goal against Mexico, and despite missing a penalty against Poland, he was still instrumental in a 2-0 victory.

for Messi this will be the final world cup

Messi scored his first World Cup knockout phase goal in Argentina’s 2-1 victory over Australia in the round of 16. He assisted in the emergence of stars Julian Alvarez and Enzo Fernandez.

In a tense quarterfinal victory against the Netherlands, he scored twice from the penalty spot, once during the game and once in the shootout.

Messi saved his best performance of the tournament for the semifinals against Croatia.

After converting a first-half penalty, Messi provided a late assist to Alvarez for Argentina’s third goal, demonstrating once again that he is the game’s most influential player.

With five goals, Messi enters Sunday’s final tied for the Golden Boot with French superstar Mbappe, but ahead on goal contributions.

The Final Quest for World Cup Glory

Messi has received seven Ballon d’Or awards and a multitude of titles with Barcelona, so it is believed that he has already received all of the personal accolades he needs.

What he, and all of Argentina, truly desires is a World Cup.

“It brings me great joy to be able to accomplish this. Messi stated this week that he hopes to end his World Cup career by playing in the final.

Everything I’ve experienced during this World Cup, what others have experienced, and how much the Argentines back home are enjoying it all has been very emotional.

READ MORE: Argentina’s profile for the 2022 World Cup

Messi’s place among the game’s greats is already assured, but if Argentina falls short against France, comparisons to Maradona and regrets over “what might have been” will resurface.

After all the ups and downs, Messi has one final opportunity to answer these questions and more in Qatar on Sunday, in a match against Destiny.

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