Lionel Messi announced on Tuesday after Argentina’s 3-0 win over Croatia that Sunday’s final will be his last World Cup game.
“I feel a lot of happiness, to be able to achieve this, to finish my World Cup journey by playing my last game in a final,” Messi told Diario Deportivo Olé after the victory.
Argentina, world champions in 1978 and 1986, will define the title on Sunday with the winner of the other semifinal between France and Morocco on Wednesday.
“It’s many years for the next one and I don’t think it will give me. And to finish this way, is the maximum, “added the captain of the selected.
Messi, 35, is playing his fifth World Cup in Qatar, surpassing the four of Diego Maradona and Javier Mascherano and becoming the Argentine footballer with the most participations in the competition.
With his fifth goal in the tournament, the “Flea” also surpassed Gabriel Batistuta as the top “albiceleste” gunner in the World Cups with 11 goals.
“All that (the records) is fine, but the important thing is to be able to achieve the group goal which is the most beautiful thing of all. We are one step away, after fighting a lot, and we are going to give the maximum to try to make it happen this time,” Messi added.
Messi led the team in Tuesday’s win against Croatia, which prompted thousands of fans to take to the streets of Argentina, wearing jerseys, flags and honking horns to celebrate the national team’s sixth world final.
“The truth is that we were waiting a long time for him to return,” Martin Duarte said at the mythical Obelisk in downtown Buenos Aires. “The finals that we lost how many years we mourned, but we are back here, a new final and happy, excited.”
The 3-0 win over Croatia with a penalty goal and two assists from Messi for a brace from Julian Alvarez will put Argentina in a title game after eight years, when it fell to Germany at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Winning the world title would elevate Messi, a seven-time Ballon winner. Gold, to the mythical status enjoyed by the late Diego Maradona in Argentina.