Lionel Messi had a tournament of his own at this year’s edition of the football World Cup. He led his country to its third World Cup title, the first since Diego Maradona’s heroics in the World Cup in Mexico in 1986. Lionel Messi finally led Argentina to glory in his fifth and final attempt after missing out on the opportunity to do so in 2014 against Germany. He bagged seven goals and three assists in the tournament while being the definition of leading from the front.
The World Cup in Qatar was indeed Lionel Messi’s World Cup. It was apparently written in stars for him. He broke numerous records during the tournament. He became the first footballer ever to win the Golden Ball honour twice since the award’s inception in 1982. He first won the accolade in the Brazil World Cup 2014 where he almost single-handedly took Argentina to the final only to lose to a German team which is in the form of their lives. Eight years later, he also won the World Cup and the Golden Ball.
Messi has scored 26 goals for the Argentina national team in major tournaments, making him the most by a South American footballer overtaking Ronaldo Nazario. It included 13 goals each in World Cups and Copa Americas. Messi became the most capped footballer in the history of the World Cup. He snatched the record from German legend Lothar Matthaus who played 25 games in the FIFA World Cup during his football career.
Messi even broke three-time World Cup winner Pele’s record. Messi has 21 goal contributions, Which is the highest by any football player, overtaking the previous record set by Pele. Pele has 20 goal contributions, whereas Messi overtook him by scoring Argentina’s third and final goal in the World Cup final versus France. Messi’s 21-goal contributions include 13 goals and eight assists.
Messi became the only player to score in every stage of the FIFA World Cup. He scored against Saudi Arabia and Mexico in the group stage, against Australia in the Pre Quarters, the Netherlands in the Quarters, and against Croatia and France in the semi-finals and finals, respectively. He has also come in clutch for his team in both Quarters and the final penalty shootouts, scoring the first nerve-wracking penalty successfully on both occasions.
Lionel Messi became the first player to assist in five World Cups. He has assisted in the 2006, 2010, 2014, 2018 and 2022 World Cups at least once. Cristiano Ronaldo became the first player ever to score in five World cups as he netted a Penalty against Ghana in the Group stage of the Qatar World Cup.
The Qatar World Cup also saw different shades of Lionel Messi as a player and person. He rolled back the years when he schooled the twenty-year-old Real Madrid target Joško Gvardiol to set up Julian Alvarez for Argentina’s third goal in the Semifinal against Croatia. After the Quarter Final match against the Netherlands, Messi was spotted having a brawl with the Netherlands coaching staff. After scoring Argentina’s second from the penalty spot, he turned to the Netherlands bench and celebrated while cupping his ears. This ice-cold celebration sparked the internet. Fans and Pundits around the world noted that an often shy Messi took revenge for his former teammate Riquelme, who was mistreated by Dutch coach Louis Van Gaal during his coaching stint at FC Barcelona. After the final, Sergio Aguero took Messi onto his shoulders and surrounded the stadium, reminiscent of Maradona’s and teammates’ 1986 Mexico World Cup-winning celebration.
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