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Lionel Messi: The Last Dance

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  • Messi and Mbappe face off in Qatar 2022 Finals.
  • A blockbuster game in the final as Argentina play the last World Cup Winners, France.
  • Lionel Messi looks to end his international career on a high

As if he hadn’t already created enough fairy tales, Argentina’s little genius Lionel Messi has saved the most fantastical scene for his final World Cup performance, leaving just one line to be written.

Messi shone at the Qatar tournament while other superstars like Neymar and Cristiano Ronaldo underwhelmed and were sent home, despite the intense pressure he is under to emulate the late great Diego Maradona and bring the trophy back to Buenos Aires.

Messi, who is 35 years old and playing in his fifth World Cup, has been the tournament’s standout player from Argentina’s first game until their victory over Croatia in the semi-final.

His performance numbers are self-evident: six starts, five goals, and three assists en route to Sunday’s final against France.

Messi has broken so many records that it is difficult to keep up with them. He has surpassed Maradona’s total of goals and World Cup appearances for Argentina, and on Sunday, he will surpass Lothar Matthaeus’ joint record of 25 tournament appearances.

However, Messi’s captivating movement and exuberant celebrations have enthralled football fans worldwide more than the eye-popping data.

Messi has waited for his opportunities to use his low centre of gravity, stunning changes in pace, and shimmying runs with the ball glued to his feet with deadly effect. He has spent long stretches of play at a walking pace and occasionally hasn’t even bothered to defend.

He is “a sprite floating on the periphery of the game until the moment is right,” wrote British sports writer Jonathan Wilson. “You can mark a man; much harder to mark a ghost.”

Early Upset

Saudi Arabia won against Argentina in the Group Stages.|PHOTO: Sky Sports|

Messi inspired the team after a startling Saudi Arabia upset; five victories followed.

His best goal came against Mexico when he hit a beautiful low shot outside the box.

He made a precise pass to Nahuel Molina, who scored Argentina’s first goal against the Netherlands in the quarterfinal, and commentators are still scratching their heads about it. Because Messi didn’t look up and still connected with Molina with absurd precision, it stands to reason that it should be considered one of the most incredible assists of all time.

Because of his extrovert personality, love for his country, and 1986 World Cup victory, Maradona has often been compared to Messi by Argentine fans harshly in the past. Messi cemented his relationship with Qatari fans during that match.

Fiery Messi

Messi with former coach Maradona.|PHOTO: CBS|

Messi, typically well-behaved, ran towards the Dutch bench while cupping his ears in a provocative gesture after converting a penalty to send Argentine fans into a frenzy.

Then, following the match, he taunted a Dutch striker with the following insult: “What are you looking at, fool?”

Although some commentators criticized him for showing disrespect, most Argentine fans cheered when the introverted Messi displayed moments of defiance akin to those of Maradona.

The phrase is inked on some people’s bodies.

“He finally let his “inner Maradona” emerge during the game against Holland. They are one. They never die. Argentina, they are!” Jorge Castellanos, an ecstatic fan at the game with a flag showing both men arm in arm, said this.

Despite all the praise, everyone knows that defeating France is necessary to achieve true immortal parity with Maradona, at least in the world’s largest sporting event.

Many non-Argentines have Argentina as their second team for a long time in the hopes that Messi will win the World Cup if their own country does not, capping off what would be a fantastic tale.

The Journey to the Last Dance

At age 13, Messi left Argentina to join the Barcelona youth program.

Despite concerns that he was too small, the newcomer excelled in the junior ranks before head coach Frank Rijkaard gave him his senior debut in a 2003 friendly against Porto at the age of 16.

With 672 goals in 778 games, Messi became Barcelona’s all-time leading scorer and appearance-maker.

He also garnered six FIFA Player of the Year awards and seven Ballon d’Or awards.

He is the all-time leading scorer for Argentina and last year helped his country win the Copa America trophy, ending a 28-year trophy drought that included several heartbreaking finals losses.

A World Cup is the only thing the Messi story lacks; fans are hopeful he will win it.

Whatever Happens, He has won the Hearts.

Lionel Messi lost the 2014 World Cup Finals.|PHOTO: Goal|

But even if the unthinkable occurs and Argentina loses, it appears that he has won over a nation that now understands that Messi loved the shirt just as much as Maradona, brought them beautiful moments over the years, and could not have tried harder or come closer to winning the World Cup.

The Argentine journalist Sofia Martinez Mateos captured the atmosphere when she concluded her interview with Messi this week not with a question but rather with a speech on behalf of the country.

“The final is coming, and of course, we all want to win, but I want to tell you that whatever the result, there is something no one can ever take from you,” she told Messi.

“You have entered the heart of every Argentine. Honestly, there’s not a kid without your shirt. You have marked all our lives. Carry it in your heart because that is more important than a World Cup, and you’ve already won that. Thanks, Captain.”


I am an ardent sports enthusiast interested in writing about football, motorsport and athletics.

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