Messi has already made history in Qatar
Lionel Messi becomes the first Argentinian player to feature at five World Cups.
Oh, come on! The tournament hasn’t even started yet but Messi has already broken a World Cup record! How does he do it?
For the majority of us mere mortals, the World Cup is an event that marks points in your life through what you see on a television screen. If you’re one of the luckier ones, a ticket to a match might have even passed through your fingers at some point. For the players actually doing the kicking and goalscoring and pressing images of coloured shirts and celebrations into our minds, participating in the tournament even for a few moments is a dream come true. And since we’re talking about football, there is always the same caveat, the same hand raised at the back of the room that comes in and makes all our our dreams and records and best moments seem insignificant - and it is just two words.
For the fifth time in his career, the forward has been selected in the World Cup squad, making him the Argentinian that will have the most appearances at the tournament. He will surpass Javier Mascherano and Diego Maradona, who both have 4 appearances.
Messi’s World Cup debut
Maxi Rodríguez made way for Messi for his first taste of the World Cup. Eight days before his 19th birthday, the forward stepped on the the pitch against Serbia-Montenegro, Diego Maradona stood in the stands and let out a cry of joy. Perhaps he knew what was about to come.
The navy shirt worn by Messi looked huge on his slight frame, his hair was flopping in front of his eyes but that did not stop him. “He was 4 foot 6 inches when he joined Barcelona”, says the commentator as he takes his first touch, a wayward pass out for a throw-in.
His second touch smacks him in the face. A bouncing ball catches him off-guard and connects with his nose as the player tumbles to the floor under an immediate challenge.
It is with his third touch where things turn golden. Messi receives the ball on the left and plays a perfect cross into the path of Hernan Crespo, who makes it 4-0. From here, Messi starts to control the game, drifting left to link up with both Riquelme and Tévez.
His goal comes after nice work from Crespo and Tévez, who play a quick one-two before feeding Messi down the right channel. The forward takes a few touches before passing the ball around the goalkeeper. In his first of what is soon to be five tournaments for Argentina, Messi scored the fifth goal for Argentina.
He did not feature as Argentina lost 1-0 against Germany in the quater-final.
South Africa 2010
With Diego Armando Maradona at the helm and Messi confirmed as the best player in the world, Argentina looked for the ultimate glory in South Africa. The sound of the Vuvuzela (remember them?) rocked Africa as Messi hopped and skipped past defences who tried to pull at the blue and white stripes of the shirt. After breezing through the group stages - a somewhat subdued and frustrated Messi ending up with only a single assist to his name - Argentina stumbled against old foes Germany and were thrashed 0-4, with goals from Müller, Friedrich and a double from Klose sending him home early.
Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iran, and Nigeria would feel the full force of Messi in his third World Cup. All three of his group opponents conceded against the player who had now established himself as one of the greatest players of all time. Barcelona’s poor season in 2013-14 saw a vengeful Messi look to take every remaining game of the season by the collar and thrust it against a wall into submission: after making the group look easy, he assisted Di María’s 117th minute winner against Switzerland in the Round of 16, scored a penalty in the semi-final and created countless chances along the way. But the journey ended in heartbreak, and a Mario Götze winner in the final left the Argentina side in second place.
Messi’s floppy hair was long gone by this point but the beard was in full flow; his incredible footwork and goalscoring capabilities now a given by everyone watching. The number of Ballon d’Ors had reached five and he had also become the captain of FC Barcelona. A turbulent year saw him reverse the decision to retire from international football and Messi instead led Jorge Sampaoli’s side - one many said was the worst Argentina squad ever to exist - to qualification for the tournament. He scored his first goal in the final group game against Nigeria and Argentina finished second. This would prove to be fatal, as Messi and co. came up against eventual winners France in the next round where, after a ludicrous match, Les Bleus came out on top 4-3, thanks to an Mbappé double.
What I said at the beginning, about Messi coming in and making our memories seem insignificant, is absolutely not true. Messi is the man who makes those memories significant; the man who forges his face and his feet into your mind as he does what comes easiest to him, giving off a sense of talent and impossibility that only occurred in human history when man first went to the moon. Even if it isn’t, let’s cheer the little man during Qatar 2022 as though it were his last.
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