Lionel Messi leads Argentina to World Cup final

Argentina’s Lionel Messi plays Croatia in the semi-final of the FIFA World Cup on December 14.Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

As Lionel Messi nears his second and possibly last world cup In the end, the stakes couldn’t be higher.

The same goes for Argentina, which has suffered more than 30 years of disappointment since it last won the football prize.

For Messi, Sunday’s win over France at the Stade de Lusail was his chance to finally claim a major trophy elused during his storied career.

By doing so, he will move ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo, who also never won a World Cup, in the long-running rivalry between the two greatest players of their generation.

As Ronaldo, 37, exits the tournament at the quarter-final stage, knocked out by Portugal and in tears as he may realize his last chance has passed, Messi is calling some of his best moments in an Argentina shirt to come Inspired his country to run to the final.

“Every time we see him play, he makes us and the players feel something special,” said Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni. “People like him, not just Argentines.

“We feel lucky and honored to have him in our jersey.”

For some time now, Messi has been tied with Diego Maradona as one of the two most iconic football stars in Argentina. But he has yet to emulate the greatness of Maradona and lead his country to World Cup glory.

Maradona did it in Mexico in 1986, a feat he has been looking to repeat since Messi emerged as a prodigy at Barcelona nearly two decades ago.

There were countless false hopes during that time.

In 2010, South Africa had a potential “dream team” with Maradona coach and Messi as the star, but Argentina lost 0-4 to Germany and missed the quarter-finals.

In 2014, with Messi nearing his prime, Argentina reached the final in Brazil.

It faces Germany again. Messi fell again, beaten 1-0 in extra time.

At 35, he knows this could be his final World Cup shot and he is already joint top scorer at the tournament with France striker Kylian Mbappe on five goals.

Perhaps more notable were his assists, such as Navel Molina’s goal against the Netherlands in the quarter-finals.

Then there was his mesmerizing run, turning Croatian defender Josko Gvadiol upside down before setting up Julian Alvarez for Argentina’s third goal in the semi-final.

“That’s at least something I can talk about [about] One day, I guarded this great player with my boys,” Gvardio said on Thursday.

These assists show that Messi can no longer rely on himself. Alvarez’s presence, scoring four goals, has been crucial to Argentina’s progress.

Messi no longer dominates for the full 90 minutes. Instead, he decides the crux of the game.

He’s not as dynamic as he was in his youth, but he’s had a bigger impact than any of his previous four World Cups.

Messi is aiming to complete his personal trophy collection, having won four Champions League titles and seven Ballon d’Ors for the world’s best player, while Argentina look to end their long wait for a third World Cup.

It won it for the first time when it hosted it in 1978 and again eight years later with Maradona.

Messi should have emulated the feat long ago.

If he retires without winning the World Cup, how long will Argentina have to wait?

It’s no wonder that every moment of Messi’s magic and every victory is greeted with such outpouring emotion.

Anticipation was building for Argentinian fans who lit up the game in a sea of ​​blue and white and paraded through the streets of Qatar.

Messi is cultivating the belief that this might be their time again.

If this is his farewell tour, he’s already driven his supporters wild along the way.

With or without the World Cup, Scaloni is adamant that Messi is the greatest player of all time.

“We seem to be saying this just because we are Argentinian, we are falling into the selfish trap of saying that because it is very Argentinian,” he said. “But I think there’s no doubt about it.”

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