What are Messi’s World Cup records with Argentina?
Having joined an exclusive club of players who have played at five World Cups, Lionel Messi is close to becoming Argentina’s all-time highest appearance maker at the finals.
In Argentina’s shock defeat to Saudi Arabia this week, Albiceleste captain Lionel Messi joined a select group of players who have appeared at five men’s World Cups - and became the first Argentinian to do so. He also entered another exclusive club by scoring at his fourth finals.
Messi has other historic tournament achievements in his sights - but an early exit for Argentina, at a World Cup he says he expects to be his last, would leave some of them either probably or certainly out of reach.
And, most importantly, it would end the legendary forward’s hopes of finally getting his hands on the World Cup - the one major trophy that has so far eluded him in his 18-year career.
Messi’s 10th-minute penalty against the Saudis on Tuesday saw the Paris Saint-Germain star take his overall World Cup goal tally to seven: one at Germany 2006, four at Brazil 2014, one at Russia 2018, and one at Qatar 2022.
Messi at the World Cup - at a glance:
Messi alongside Klose, Seeler and Pelé
Only four other players have scored at four World Cups: Germany’s Miroslav Klose and Uwe Seeler; Brazil’s Pelé; and Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo. Nobody had managed five until Thursday, when Ronaldo netted a penalty in a 3-2 Portugal win over Ghana, having also scored at first man to net at five separate tournaments World Cups 2006, 2010, 2014 and 2018.
Messi’s career World Cup goal haul of seven leaves him three short of the competition record for an Argentinian, currently held by Gabriel Batistuta. While Messi can very feasibly reel in, and surpass, that tally if Argentina make it out of their group, he’s significantly less likely to if they don’t.
As for the overall tournament record, that’s a long shot even if Argentina recover to qualify from Group C and make it to the final or the third-place playoff (for a total of seven games at Qatar 2022). Klose’s unparalleled 16 World Cup goals is over double Messi’s present haul.
When it comes to assists, Messi has five at World Cups - one in 2006, one in 2010, one in 2014 and two in 2018. Pelé holds the record, with 10.
Messi’s goal/assist record at each World Cup:
Argentina World Cup appearance record a seeming cert
One all-time mark that Messi looks certain to break - barring injury or suspension - is Argentina’s record for appearances in World Cup games. After the defeat to Saudi Arabia, the 35-year-old has now played in 20 tournament matches - one less than Diego Maradona’s national-record of 21 appearances.
If Messi is to surpass the outright World Cup record - held by Germany’s Lothar Matthäus, who played 25 times at the finals between 1982 and 1998 - Argentina must play the maximum seven games in Qatar.
Matthäus is among the players Messi has now joined in playing at five World Cups. The 1990 World Cup winner, Mexican pair Antonio Carbajal and Rafa Márquez and Italy’s Gianluigi Buffon were the four players who had achieved the feat before the 2022 World Cup started. Messi became the fifth on Tuesday, and Ronaldo the sixth on Thursday.
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