DOHA – Until Tuesday’s 2022 first semi-finals, German legend Lothar Matthaus was the player who had played the most World Cup games in history. Now, he shares that honour with Lionel Messi, who beat his tally as Argentina whitewashed Croatia 3-0 to the final of the 2022 World Cup.
Matthaus‘ record of 25 games played on the biggest stage has stood unchallenged since 1998, but Lionel Messi wrote more history.
With five goals, two assists and three MVP awards so far, this is Messi‘s best World Cup to date. A vintage showing from a man determined to put the perfect finishing touches on his eternal legacy.
As everybody waited at the Lusail Stadium, so were the journalists – the ‘guest’ was Lionel Messi in the mixed zone. And there, he spoke for at least five minutes, starting with a confirmation: “I am proud to be able to finish my World Cup journey playing this final.
“What I’m experiencing is exciting. Surely Sunday will be my last game in a World Cup. It will be many years before the next one (2026) and I don’t think I’ll be able to make it. So I hope I can finish in the best way.”
Named again as the best player of the match, in the semifinal that Argentina won 3-0 against Croatia, Lionel Messi expressed that his team had prepared ‘very well’ the match, that he knew that ‘it was going to be the one,’ because his rival had ‘a lot of possession, but is messy,’ and remarked that he felt ‘good, strong’ and was ‘enjoying very much’ the whole journey with his national team in the Qatar 2022 World Cup.
“I’m enjoying it all very much. I feel good. I feel strong to face every game. We have been making a big sacrifice. The last game we played was with an extension that was not easy at all. We were tired, but the group got strength from where it doesn’t have to give an extra plus. We played a very serious game. We knew it was going to be the match it was,” he said at a press conference at the Lusail Stadium.
“We prepared the match very well. We knew they were going to have the ball, because they have good players in the middle, but we were going to have our chance, because they get messy quickly. We prepared very well for the match. I’m very happy. Throughout this World Cup I’ve been having a lot of fun and, luckily, I was able to help the group to get things done,” the striker added.
And he remarked the value of the whole team: “This group, beyond the group strength it has, is very intelligent. They know how to read the moments of the match. Scaloni had already said it. It is a very intelligent group, that knows how to suffer when they have to suffer, that knows how to have the ball when they have to have it, when they have to press, to retreat, they know how to read the matches.”
“And we have a very good coaching staff that leaves nothing to chance, that lets you know every detail of every match and that is a great help for us. At no time did we feel lost on the pitch, we know what we have to do in every game. We knew the match was going to be this way. Croatia has a lot of possession, but we also knew that it could be a strength of ours when we recovered. They are very messy and leave a lot of spaces,” said Messi.
Argentina reached the final after losing 1-2 to Saudi Arabia in the first matchday.
“The first match was a very hard blow for us, because we were coming from 36 matches without losing and to start the World Cup like that, with a rival that we thought we could beat, was a very hard test for us and for this group. But the group once again showed how strong it is, taking each game forward,” added Messi.
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