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Messi: “Maradona would be really happy I broke his record”

Diego Maradona was Argentina’s most capped player at World Cup finals for a long time, but that honour now belongs to Lionel Messi.

¡D10s! Messi compite contra números de Maradona

Lionel Messi says Diego Maradona would be “super happy” after he overtook the late Argentina legend as his country’s most capped player in World Cup finals.

Paris Saint-Germain superstar Messi played a full part in Wednesday’s 0-2 win over Poland that secured Argentina top spot in Group C and a last 16 tie with Australia. Messi, who had a penalty saved by Wojciech Szczesny with the game level, was making his 22nd appearance at the tournament – one more than his former coach Maradona.

Records there to be broken

I only learned about this record recently,” Messi said when told about his latest achievement. “It’s a pleasure to be able to continue achieving these kinds of records. I think Diego would be super happy for me because he’s always showed me a lot of affection. He was always happy when things went well for me.”

Messi could yet take another record from Maradona, as the 63 chances he has created at World Cups in recorded history is second only to his compatriot, who created 67. The 35-year-old’s failure to find the net against Poland came on the back of netting in the shock 1-2 defeat to Saudi Arabia and 2-0 win over Mexico in Argentina’s opening two games in Qatar. The seven shots he amassed against Poland is his highest tally without scoring in a match for Argentina since a 1-1 draw with Iceland at the 2018 World Cup (11).

Messi reacts to a missed chance against Poland.
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Messi reacts to a missed chance against Poland.JUAN MABROMATAAFP

Second-half goals from Alexis Mac Allister and Julián Álvarez ensured Argentina secured the win they needed, though, and they are now strong favourites to overcome Australia.

“After the first goal, everything went our way,” said Messi, who was part of the Argentina squad that finished runners-up to Germany at the 2014 World Cup. “We started doing again what we had been trying to do since the start of the World Cup, but which we hadn’t been able to achieve for various reasons. Having been able to do it today, it gives us confidence for the future.”

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Messi will be looking to score in the knockout stages of the World Cup for the first time on Saturday, with all eight of his previous goals coming in the group stage. He has had 23 efforts without finding the net beyond the first round, though he did assist in the last 16 in each of the 2010, 2014 and 2018 editions.