Lionel Messi says final will be his last World Cup game for Argentina

Veteran attacker, who has scored five goals in Qatar finals, hopes to lift famous trophy for first time on Sunday

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Lionel Messi says Sunday’s final will be the last World Cup match of his career.

The Argentina captain, 35, starred in his side’s 3-0 semi-final victory against Croatia on Tuesday night, scoring the opener at Lusail Stadium before assisting the third goal following an incredible run.

Afterwards, Messi confirmed his fifth World Cup would be his last, as he attempts to finally secure football's most coveted prize. Messi, joint top-scorer in Qatar with five goals, contested the 2014 final, but Argentina lost to Germany.

“I am very happy for finishing my journey in World Cups in a final, to play the last game in a final,” Messi said on Tuesday night. “That is really very gratifying.

“Everything I lived in this World Cup has been emotional, seeing how much it has been enjoyed in Argentina.

“There are a lot of years from this year to the next one [World Cup 2026]. I don't think I will be able to do that. To finish this way is brilliant.”

Two-time champions, Argentina will face in the final either current holders France or surprise package Morocco, who play each other at Al Bayt Stadium on Wednesday.

Should Messi play the showpiece on Sunday, he will become the record appearance-maker at a men’s World Cup, with 26 matches. He made his senior international debut in 2005, and has gone on to score 97 goals in 172 matches.

Messi, a record seven-time Ballon d’Or winner, led Argentina last year to the Copa America title – his first major trophy with his senior national team.

In 2016, following successive defeats in Copa America finals, the forward retired from international duty before reversing his decision two months later.

“We are going to do our best, as we have done up until now, so that this time it really happens – we really win it,” Messi said. “I have been enjoying it the past few years, being with the national side. I am really enjoying everything that is happening to us.

“To get the Copa America, to reach the World Cup with 36 games unbeaten, and to finish all that trajectory in a final is just incredible.

“I hope the people in Argentina enjoy themselves and what we are doing. They shouldn't doubt we are giving absolutely everything.”

Meanwhile, Argentina manager Lionel Scaloni was asked after the semi-final win if Messi ranked as the best to have played the game.

“Whether Messi is the greatest player of all time … sometimes as Argentinians it of course looks like we say that just because we are Argentinian,” Scaloni said." Maybe it's selfish. I don't have any doubt saying that: he is the best in history.

“I have the privilege. I am honoured to train him and see him play. It's something exciting because every time you see him play, it's a huge source of motivation for his teammates, the people, the whole world.

“So there is nothing left to say about Messi. It's indeed a privilege to have him in the squad.”

Updated: December 14, 2022, 10:15 AM