On December 18, 2022, after a glorious night of football at the Lusail Stadium in Doha, Lionel Messi finally got his chance to lift the FIFA World Cup Trophy with Argentina winning in the final against France. It took him more than 16 years after playing his maiden World Cup tournament, and several heartbreaks in between, to exalt the desired prize.
The multi-talented forward striker has elated the world of football for two decades with his brilliant, classy brand of football, with pages of the scripted history of achievements.
Eight year old story of Messi coming very close to the World Cup, pulling his team to the final in Brazil, saw a heart-breaking result, the Germans carrying away the title in the extra time. Undoubtedly, the dawn of FIFA 22 too signalled a trophyless campaign for the Messi-led force, when Saudi Arabians did away Messi’s opening goal and scored another to beat the Argentinians with 2-1.
However, Lionel Sebastián Scaloni, found every reason to pull back the energy and confidence of his boys. Predictably, Messi emerged as their game-changer in style. Gathering all the experiences of the world, the veteran forward was in unstoppable form thereafter which took him to seven goals in the tournament but only one less than French striker Kylian Mbappe, who won the Golden Boot award. Of course, Messi held the golden ball, a precious one, only after the World cup itself.
The 35-year-old Argentinian also tops the assists charts with three to sit alongside Harry Kane (England), Antoine Griezmann (France) and Bruno Fernandes (Portugal). It was an anti-climactic exit for the 37-year-old, who has almost certainly played his last World Cup football.
Messi made his international debut in 2005 after winning the FIFA World Youth Championship that year. At the 2006 World Cup, he became the youngest Argentinian player to play and score. Messi is a seven-time record winner of the prestigious Ballon d’Or, which is one of Messi’s Guinness World Records. He is the first footballer to be awarded the Laureus Award for Best Sportsman of the Year award. He has won 10 La Liga titles, four UEFA Champions League titles, three FIFA Club World Cup trophies, seven Copa del Rey titles, three UEFA Super Cup titles, and six European Golden Shoe awards among many other accolades as a player for La Liga club Barcelona. He has also won the French league for PSG and also named FIFA World Player of the Year in 2009. But something great was always missing he was yet to add major international trophies to his national team.
Post Copa America in 2016, he had already announced his retirement from international football since he failed to carry the title home. But the decision lasted only a short while and returned to play for Argentina. Just 6 years then on, everyone in the world must confess that he did fulfil what everyone expected him to do for his country and admirers including the FIFA World Cup.
Messi is an unbeatable top scorer in South America with 98 goals from 172 appearances. Not to forget, the goals and the appearances are the highest by an Argentine for the national side ever. The goals also make him the third-highest international goal-scorer after Portugal icon Cristiano Ronaldo’s 118 and Iran legend Ali Daei’s 109.
Although he first captained the team at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, when he briefly took over the duties from full-time Javier Mascherano during a group match, the 2014 edition was his first as the officially named captain of the Argentina national team. Thereafter he has carried the glory of the country to the highest possible.
Backed by Lionel Messi’s outstanding performance, Argentina entered the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar with a considerable chance of success in winning the tournament. He scored two goals in the final match, which is a great imprint on his last World Cup appearance. Altogether, Messi now has 13 goals in World Cups tied with French great Just Fontaine and one more than Pelé.
Messi became the first player in history with 10 Player of the Match awards at the World Cup tournaments after winning his fourth in the 2022 edition following the win against Croatia. He extended that record to 11 with the win in the final against France.
Messi is also the oldest male player to score five or more goals in a single FIFA World Cup tournament. With his 26th World Cup appearance in the final, he also broke German great Lothar Matthäus’ record for most World Cup appearances.