Will 2022 be the year that Lionel Messi finally gets his hands on the World Cup trophy?
The legendary forward celebrates his 35th birthday this week and Qatar is likely to be his final opportunity to win football’s most prestigious prize with Argentina.
Messi will be approaching his 39th birthday by the time the 2026 World Cup comes around, so there’s no guarantee that he’ll play in that tournament. Saying that, you certainly wouldn’t rule it out completely. He’ll still be capable of producing magic at the highest level in his late-30s.
This winter’s tournament will be Messi’s fifth appearance at a World Cup finals after 2006, 2010, 2014 and 2018.
The closest he came to becoming a world champion was in Brazil eight years ago.
Messi, who was named Player of the Tournament, scored four goals as Argentina reached their first World Cup final since 1990.
But he was unable to inspire Argentina to World Cup glory at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.
Mario Gotze scored the only goal of the game in extra-time, leaving Messi and his compatriots crestfallen at the final whistle.
Argentina had nine shots at goal but, crucially, none of them were on target. Messi and his teammates – Gonzalo Higuain, in particular – spurned several decent opportunities to score during the match.
Less than a year after the final, Messi watched back at some of those chances during an interview with FIFA.com.
And the footage is still sad to watch now.
Messi may have feared – and he might have been correct – that he’d never get a better chance to lift the World Cup.
“I don’t know, what can I say… it’s a pity,” Messi said after watching himself shoot wide of Manuel Neuer’s far post.
“It’s a pity given all the chances we had in that game. We had the better chances and, well… we’ll regret the chances we had but couldn’t score for the rest of our lives.”
Watch the video here:
Ah man😢 Be great to see him win the World Cup in Qatar 🙏 pic.twitter.com/xqsH1d4NED— Best of Football (@BestofFootball8) June 22, 2022
However, Messi has experienced international glory with Argentina since then.
The South American nation won their first major title since 1993 at last summer’s Copa America. They also recently beat Italy at Wembley to win the 2022 Finalissima.
Currently on a 32-game unbeaten run, Argentina look set to pose a serious threat at the upcoming World Cup.
And few players, if any, will be more determined to win football’s most prestigious trophy than Messi.
QUIZ: Can you get 20/20 on our Ultimate Lionel Messi quiz?
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