Argentina fans say Lionel Messi can take his place alongside Maradona with World Cup win

Football's greatest honour has so far eluded one of the game's all-time best players

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Argentina fans believe that football owes Lionel Messi a World Cup title that will allow him to take his place alongside the greats of the game.

Playing in what will be his final World Cup, the PSG star has been in sparking form so far, inspiring his side to reach the semi-finals against Croatia following a dramatic penalty shoot-out win on Friday against the Netherlands.

Football's greatest honour has so far eluded one of the best players in the game's history.

In 2018, Argentina were knocked out in the round of 16 by eventual winners France.

The Messi World Cup story should end with joy, not with tears
Nacho Arnoll, Argentina fan

Four years earlier, they came closest to lifting the trophy for the first time since 1986 when they reached the final but were defeated in extra time by Germany.

Messi was awarded the Fifa World Cup Golden Ball that year as the tournament's best player.

With four goals so far and several match-winning performances, the diminutive number 10 is in contention for the honour again.

Above all, fans want to see Messi lift the World Cup trophy on December 18 to firmly place him alongside Diego Maradona, who was awarded the Golden Ball in 1986.

Lukas Boej says it is now or never for Messi.  Ali Al Shouk / The National

“We want to be the champion for the sake of Messi. He deserves to win it after previous failures,” Argentina fan Lukas Boej, 24, told The National outside Doha’s Lusail Stadium, after his country's dramatic penalty shoot-out win against the Netherlands.

“Football wasn’t fair to Messi in the World Cup. It is his fifth and last appearance in the mega-event and he must be the champion.

“I came all the way from Argentina to support the players and kept chanting for Messi. We need to support him to support us in getting the third title for Argentina.

“Qatar 2022 will almost certainly be Messi's closing act on the international stage. It is now or never for Messi.”

Nacho Arnoll hopes to stay until the final match and celebrate a World Cup win with Messi. Ali Al Shouk / The National

Nacho Arnoll, 31 from Tucuman city in Argentina, travelled to Doha from Norway where he lives to support Messi and his final quest.

“I have been here since the kick-off. I attended all the Argentina matches. I had the most amazing experience in my life so far. I hope to stay until the final match and celebrate with Messi,” Mr Arnoll said.

“He is a phenomenal footballer. Whenever he gets the ball, the whole stadium stands up. The Messi World Cup story should end with joy, not with tears.”

Argentina supporters were clearly relieved at seeing their great South American rivals Brazil lose out to Croatia in own penalty shoot-out but some would have been happy to play them in the semi-final on Tuesday.

“Now we know Brazil has left it is a relief but as Argentina supporters. We didn’t like it to be this way. We wished we could play against them here in Qatar,” Mr Arnoll added.

Victor and Emanuel Castelli are hoping for an Argentina win. Photo: Ali Al Shouk

Emanuel Castelli, 32, who is attending the finals with his father Victor, said the similarities between Messi and Maradona are clear in the way they both excited fans all over the world.

“We were blessed to have Maradona in the 80s to give us glory and pride. We have Messi who is following Maradona's steps,” Mr Castelli said.

“If you ask anyone, Messi deserves to get the World Cup title.

“My father was watching Maradona, who drew a smile on his face. This time I’m coming with my father to see if Messi will make us buzzing with joy again.”

Updated: December 14, 2022, 7:03 AM