As Lionel Messi prepares for what he says could be his last World Cup, we take a look at the ups and downs of his Argentina career…
He was released for the first time
By the time Messi made his Argentina debut, interest in the young talent was growing. After choosing Argentina in Spain, he shone for the U20s, scoring twice in the final of the U20 World Cup in July 2005, and he got his first cap in the August friendly of the same year against Hungary at the age of 18. It ended in tears. Basically.
After being sent on as a substitute, Messi only stayed on the pitch for a few minutes before dropping his arm to Vilmos Vanczak. The defender grabbed Messi’s shirt as he passed and the player had not caught his opponent as he tried to break free. But despite it being a yellow for the Hungarian, the referee gave a red card to Messi. She was later found crying in the dressing room, or so the story goes.
For all Messi’s potential, this was perhaps a symbolic moment to show the frustrations and obstacles Messi will face in the international game. As he began, his international career did not unfold as he would have liked…
Messi is Argentina
Cups: 165 (history)
Objectives: 91 (history)
Respect: U20 World Cup 2005, Olympic Games 2008, World Cup 2014, Copa America 2021, Finalissima 2022
The glory of the Olympic Games
For all the disappointment of the Argentine national team, Messi has an Olympic gold medal. In 2008, when Messi was Barcelona’s most important player, he was banned from playing in Beijing by his club as the competition clashed with the Champions League. Fortunately for Messi and Argentina, new Barca boss Pep Guardiola saw it differently.
Guardiola, an Olympian himself, knew the importance of competition to Messi and his countrymen and let him go. Messi took advantage of the opportunity – and the competition, playing a key role in Argentina’s progress to the final, where he scored the only goal of the game against Nigeria. It is a victory that he loves the most.
“Olympic gold in 2008 is my favorite achievement,” he told a Spanish newspaper. Esquire. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime tournament that involves a lot of athletes from different disciplines.”
Messi: Argentinian player
Messi became the youngest player to represent – and score – Argentina at the World Cup in 2006, aged 18, 357 days.
The sad final of the World Cup 2014
After going scoreless but heaping criticism at South Africa 2010, the 2014 World Cup in Brazil seemed like the perfect stage for Messi to lead Argentina to glory on the biggest stage. Wearing the captain’s armband, he began to lead the way, scoring important goals in all three group games.
Come the knocks, he turned assistant, assisted Switzerland’s late winner and scored the move that led to the only goal of the game against Belgium. His decisive penalty then set up a semi-final victory over the Netherlands.
But by the end he couldn’t motivate his teammates to make it to the final stage. “It’s very painful to lose the way we did,” Messi said after Mario Gotze’s extra-time winner gave Germany the win.
This tournament Messi was awarded the Ballon d’Or as the best player of the tournament. “I don’t need the award at all,” he said, reflecting on Argentina’s defeat. The Ballon d’Or was his but the best chance to emulate Diego Maradona and win the World Cup had eluded Messi.
The final defeat and a short break
“For me, the national team is over. I have done everything I can,” said a disappointed Messi when he announced his international retirement after Argentina’s 2016 Copa America final defeat by Chile.
In the final replay of the 2015 Copa America, Argentina lost to their South American neighbors on penalties after a 0-0 draw. Messi has given important moments in all these competitions, but after the disappointment in the 2007 edition of the competition and the previous World Cup, his record in major finals reads: four finals, four defeats.
Frustrations were too much.
Messi is often criticized by the Argentine fans who want him, but now he has forced him to change his mind. It worked. Messi changed his mind and scored a 1-0 victory in his return, a World Cup match against Uruguay. Encouraged to do another honor for his country, Messi has set his sights on Russia 2018.
The hat-trick hero will set up another shot at the World Cup
Despite their run to the finals of the 2014 and 2015 World Cups and the 2016 Copa Americas, Argentina were in serious danger of missing out on Russia 2018, having suffered persistent setbacks during their away season in South America. Can Argentina miss out for the first time since 1970?
Not if Messi had anything to do with it. Argentina’s captain had a great performance against Ecuador. Argentina were behind with just 38 seconds on the clock but Messi scored a match-winning hat-trick to win again and book a place at the World Cup.
From the opener’s close range to the edge of the box drive and a superb third solo, it was a master class in pressure. “Fortunately the country of the best player in the world is from Argentina,” said boss Jorge Sampaoli. Unfortunately for Sampaoli, Argentina and the big man himself, Messi couldn’t take the poor nation to victory in Russia.
Silverware finally arrives
It must have felt like Groundhog Day as Argentina opened their 2019 Copa America campaign with a disappointing 2-0 defeat to Colombia, and needed a Messi penalty to salvage a 1-1 draw against Paraguay in their second leg.
A routine win for hosts Qatar saw them through to the quarter-finals, although when Argentina were beaten 2-0 by Venezuela at the Maracana in Brazil, Messi was criticized for his poor performance and lack of goals. “I’m not playing as well in the Copa America or as I expected,” he admitted afterwards.
His embarrassing performance against Argentina in the final third continued as they were beaten 2-0 by hosts Brazil in the semi-finals, and while they impressed to seal third place, it was little consolation as time was running out for Messi to lift the trophy. .
With the 2021 tournament and Messi on the cusp of his 34th birthday, it felt like now or never. The goal of the opening game to create influence with Chile served as an early response to his opponents two years ago.
Argentina won their group, with Messi on target twice and becoming Argentina’s best player at the moment.
The records continued to fall; After getting past Ecuador in the quarter-finals, Argentina took an early lead against Colombia in the last four through Messi who cut in behind Lautaro Martinez. This took him to nine goals in the tournament, equaling his feat in international competition.
The game could have gone to penalties but Messi was confident in his hopes of putting the Copa America on the line – and his teammates. Although he didn’t score in Argentina’s victory in Brazil last time out he was named man of the match, having been involved in nine of the 12 goals – and more importantly, he had some major silverware to call his own.
“It was clear to me that I have to try until the final race and that I can’t leave the national team without winning something,” he said later. Daily Sport. A year later he played a key role in Argentina’s victory in the first Finalissima, beating Euro 2020 winners Italy 3-0.
The winners’ medal may be worthless in its image compared to that of the Copa America – but there is still a World Cup-like difference ready to go beyond that.