The scene will be like nothing else. From Buenos Aires to the Andes, Argentina will lose its mind if Lionel Messi lifts the World Cup on Sunday.
Until last year, major tournaments were a place of frustration and pain for Messi. Glory at the 2021 Copa America brought an explosion of relief, vindicating Messi for his past failures on the international stage.
Diego Maradona was the untouchable benchmark, La Seleccion’s original No.10 talisman. The 2022 World Cup is Messi’s final chance to emulate the great man’s 1986 glory.
Argentina wants its modern messiah to equal Maradona on Sunday. It would be Messi’s final, ultimate tribute more than two years on from “the Golden Boy’s” death.
Having overcome Croatia 3-0 in the semifinal, France or Morocco will be the final hurdle between Messi and history.
MORE: Messi vs. Ronaldo at World Cup: Goals, stats, records
Has Messi ever reached World Cup final?
Messi came agonisingly close to World Cup glory in 2014, when his dreams crumbled against a nation who have single-handedly disrupted the football icon’s legacy.
Germany have caused three Argentinian heartbreaks in Messi’s era. On his 2006 debut, Messi watched from the bench as Miroslav Klose and Co. edged their quarterfinal on penalties. Four years later, again at the last-eight, Germany inflicted a 4-0 humiliation.
Then came 2014. Mario Gotze’s lunging dink over Sergio Romero 113 minutes into the World Cup final at Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Maracana was all Germany needed to become world champions after a nail-biting final.
Argentina were left to rue a host of missed chances, and a performance from Messi that fell far below expectations. He hadn’t scored a single goal since the group stages.
Germany vs. Argentina
👕 Lionel Messi
📆 FIFA World Cup Final 2014 pic.twitter.com/4ibMcFhe6k
— Big Chance Missed (@ChanceMissed) June 10, 2022
Can Messi win World Cup?
With Germany knocked-out in the group stages, Argentina can have a little more confidence in 2022.
The signs are good for Messi, too. The 35-year-old ended his four-tournament drought in the knockout stages, scoring a wonderful goal against Australia before adding a penalties against the Netherlands and Croatia.
The Argentine skipper has scored five goals and provided three assists at the World Cup so far, with some special performances along the way.
La Seleccion suffered one the of the great World Cup upsets in their opening match against Saudi Arabia and despite recovering to win Group C, they haven’t been entirely convincing.
Concerns for Argentine fans include Lautaro Martinez having an exceptionally poor tournament in attack and Angel Di Maria’s fitness issues.
France and the world’s best player, Kylian Mbappe, could be waiting in the final…unless underdog sensations Morocco can pull off their greatest shock yet.
Argentina vs France history
Les Blues and Argentina have a short World Cup history but Messi and Co. will be out to avenge their 2018 meeting.
The reigning European champions came in as favourites for their last-16 clash with Argentina. It was the day Kylian Mbappe arrived, putting Messi in his shadow.
A fiercely contested battle of high drama, France went ahead before Argentina turned the match around, only for a Benjamin Pavard screamer to level it.
Then Mbappe struck, the teen burying a quick-fire double to put Argentina out of reach. Sergio Aguero’s 90th-minute goal was a consolation at 4-3.
If France await at the Lusail Stadium final then Mbappe — four years older, wiser and better than ever — Argentina know he’ll take some stopping.
2018 World Cup
Game of The Tournament
France 4-3 Argentina pic.twitter.com/YmSpskEdsl
— My Greatest 11 (@MyGreatest11) November 17, 2022
Argentina vs Morocco history
There have been only three meetings between Argentina and Morocco, all of which were friendlies won by the South American giants.
Diego Maradona scored a penalty to help Argentina win 3-1 in the nations’ first meeting in 1994, before 1-0 victories in 2004 and 2019.
Argentina have a good record against African sides at the World Cup. Bizarrely, they drew Nigeria in 1994, 2002, 2010, 2014 and 2018 — winning on each occasion.
However, Africa can claim one victory over Argentina, almost as shocking as Saudi Arabia’s upset this year. Maradona and Co. would recover to reach the final of Italia 90 but a 1-0 defeat to Cameroon in their opening group stage game.
MORE: Biggest World Cup upsets: Ranking the top 10 shocks
Messi World Cup stats
In his final tournament Messi has hit top form, but he hasn’t always delivered on football’s biggest stage…
|World Cup||Stage Eliminated||Games||Goals||Assists|
|2018||Round of 16||4||1||2|