How old was messi in his first world cup ? For many soccer fans around the world, Lionel Messi is the most magical player they have seen play the game in their lifetime. Over the past decade, the Argentinian has dazzled us all with his nimble dribbling, pinpoint passes and jaw-dropping goals.
Messi has captured nearly every conceivable trophy and accolade imaginable at the club level. However, as is also the case with his great rival Cristiano Ronaldo, the honors and distinctions slow down at the international level.
Russia 2018 will likely be the last time Messi will don an Argentinian shirt in his prime, meaning this will be the last real chance the Barcelona star has to lead his country to the golden trophy.
2006 World Cup — Germany
Messi made his World Cup debut at the age of 18 in Argentina’s second group stage game against Serbia and Montenegro. He was subbed on in the 74th minute, quickly assisted the team’s fourth goal and scored the sixth in the 6-0 victory. He made his first World Cup start in Argentina’s 0-0 draw against the Netherlands because Argentina rested starters with a place in the knockout stages secured.
Manager José Pékerman had Messi play the role of super sub in the Round of 16 match against Mexico, subbing him on in the 84th minute. The tactic almost worked as the young winger had a goal controversially disallowed, and forced extra time where Argentina eventually won. That game would be Messi’s last in the competition as he remained on the bench during Argentina’s quarterfinals loss to Germany in a penalty shootout. Unsurprisingly, Pékerman was heavily critcized for the decision and left Argentinians hopeful of what the young forward would do in the next competition.
2010 World Cup — South Africa
Argentina’s road to South Africa was turbulent, to say the least. Messi scored just four goals in 18 qualifying appearances because he was mostly positioned deep in midfield. It wasn’t until a meeting right before the tournament between manager Diego Maradona and the Barcelona superstar that the two finally agreed on an ideal formation for the team where the 23-year-old could play in his preferred position. At the World Cup, Argentina swept the group stages with Messi excelling in his playmaking role. It wasn’t until a 3-1 win against Mexico in the round of 16 that he finally appeared on the scoresheet with an assist to Carlos Tevez on the first goal of the game.
Argentina’s World Cup run ended in a 4-0 quarter-final defeat against Germany. Messi, who many fans believed would have been the difference four years prior against the same opponent, was unable to get anything going as the Germans tore apart Argentina’s shaky defense. The Argentinian was named in FIFA’s top players of the tournament, but was criticized heavily in his home country for not leading his country like Maradona once did in 1986.
2014 World Cup — Brazil
Now donning the physical embodiment of leadership with the captain’s armband, Messi entered the 2014 World Cup ready to command Argentina to glory. Once again, Argentina swept through the group stage, but not without some heroics from the team’s new captain. He scored a brace in the team’s 2-1 win over Boznia and Herzegovina, and a late winner from 23 yards out in a 1-0 victory against Iran. He continued this form into the knockout stages, assisting on an extra-time goal in a 1-0 victory over Switzerland, and hit his shot when Argentina’s game against the Netherlands went to a penalty shootout. The final was set and for the third tournament in a row, Argentina would face Germany. This time the matchup was billed as the world’s best player against the best team in the tournament. The game was categorized more by Argentina’s inability to finish its chances than by Germany’s ability to stop them. Ultimately, Germany pounced on the lack of offensive payoff and super-sub Mario Gotze scored the winner in the 113th minute of extra time. Despite not winning, Messi was still awarded the Golden Ball as best player of the tournament. Once again, his failure to bring home any hardware for his country drew plenty of criticism from local press.
Retirement and return
Surely after being just one goal away from international glory, Argentina would find a way to regroup and win tournaments with weaker competition, right? Wrong. Messi led Argentina to back-to-back Copa America finals (2015, 2016) and lost to the same opponent (Chile) in both. After three consecutive defeats in tournament finals, the Barcelona star announced his retirement from international soccer. At the time, there was fear that some of the other stars that played for Argentina would retire from international play as well. The news inspired a global trending topic NoTeVayasLeo (which translates to “Leo, don’t go”), a popular Spotify playlist with a similar name and a demonstration of 50,000 people in Argentina’s capital. Messi eventually returned to the national team for World Cup qualifiers when the team began to struggle on its road to Russia. He told the BBC, “A lot of things went through my mind on the night of the final and I gave serious thought to quitting, but my love for my country and this shirt is too great.”
2018 World Cup — Russia
The first 180 minutes of Lionel Messi’s return to international tournament soccer were a disaster. He missed a penalty that would have given Argentina the lead over Iceland, so his team had to settle for a 1-1 draw. He had even less of an impact in the next game, a 3-0 Argentina loss to Croatia. If it wasn’t for a late Marcos Rojo game-winning goal in injury time against Nigeria, he would have gone home in the group stage for the first time in his career. It’s also worth noting he scored his first goal of the tournament in that game. His 2018 campaign came to an end in the Round of 16 against France despite leading Argentina to a lead, and then in the early stages of a comeback. Unfortunately for him, it wasn’t enough as France won 4-3 on the back of Kylian Mbappe’s double. This loss was especially painful for neutral fans who wanted to see a Messi vs. Ronaldo quarterfinal match. Now the only place the two best players in the world will meet is at the airport on their way home.
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