‘Gratifying’: Messi to play last World Cup game in Qatar 2022 final

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Argentina captain Lionel Messi says Sunday’s final will be the last World Cup game of his career.

The 35-year-old forward scored his fifth goal of Qatar 2022 and helped set up two others in Tuesday’s 3-0 semi-final win over Croatia.

Playing in his fifth World Cup, Messi has never won the game’s biggest prize.

“I am very happy for finishing my journey in World Cups in a final, to play the last game in a final. That is really very gratifying,” he said.

“Everything I lived in this World Cup has been emotional, seeing how much it has been enjoyed in Argentina.

“There are a lot of years from this year to the next one. I don’t think I will be able to do that. To finish this way is brilliant.”

Argentina will play France or Morocco, who meet on Wednesday, in the final, when Messi is set to make a record 26th appearance in a men’s World Cup.

The 2026 World Cup will be held in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Messi has won the Ballon d’Or – awarded to the world’s best player – a record seven times and been named Fifa Best Men’s Player once.

Other honours include four Champions Leagues, 11 top-flight titles and Copa America glory with Argentina in 2021.

The World Cup is the one glaring omission, Argentina having lost to Germany in the 2014 final in Brazil.

“We are going to do our best, as we have done up until now, so that this time it really happens – we really win it,” said Messi, who retired from international duty in June 2016 before reversing his decision two months later.

“I have been enjoying it the past few years, being with the national side. I am really enjoying everything that is happening to us.

“To get the Copa America, to reach the World Cup with 36 games unbeaten, and to finish all that trajectory in a final is just incredible.

“I hope the people in Argentina enjoy themselves and what we are doing. They shouldn’t doubt we are giving absolutely everything.”

Messi, who plays for French giants Paris St-Germain, is one of only six men to have appeared in five World Cups, along with German Lothar Matthaus, Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, and Antonio Carbajal, Andres Guardado and Rafael Marquez of Mexico.

Currently leading the Golden Boot race in Qatar alongside France’s Kylian Mbappe, Messi became the first Argentina player to score in four World Cups and also became their record World Cup scorer with 11 goals.

He made his Argentina debut at the age of 18 in 2005 and has scored 97 goals in 172 games. (BBC)

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