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WM 2022: Weltmeister Lionel Messi krönt mit Argentinien seine Karriere

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Status: 12/19/2022 08:10 a.m

Lionel Messi has finally made it: At his fifth and last World Cup, the superstar finally became world champion with Argentina. It’s the culmination of his already great career.

It’s done: Lionel Messi will not go down in football history as “the incomplete”. The superstar led his Argentinians as captain in the final against France (4:2 penalties) to the long-awaited third world title.

In the same breath as Diego Maradona

This ends a long wait for the South Americans. 36 years ago in Mexico (3-2 against Germany) the “Albiceleste” were crowned world champions for the last time. At that time, the absolute superstar of the tournament was Diego Maradona – at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar he was called Messi.

Throughout his footballing life, Messi has been compared to Maradona, so far “the golden boy” has remained unattainable for the 35-year-old. Despite countless titles at club level and numerous accolades (seven-time Ballon d’Or winner, six-time FIFA World Player of the Year winner). Gone and forgotten: now Messi is the greatest.

In 2006, the 18-year-old Messi made his first impressions

At his first finals in Germany in 2006, he was not yet a regular player. He made three appearances back then and also scored a goal in the 6-0 first-round win against Serbia and Montenegro aged 18 years and 357 days.

For the Argentines, however, it was over in the quarterfinals. Without Messi, who did not play in this game, they lost on penalties (2: 4) to hosts Germany.

2010 in the quarterfinals against Germany without a chance

Four years later in South Africa it was again the round of the top eight – and again the DFB selection proved to be too strong. The young German team had a great day against the South Americans and won sensationally 4-0 against Messi and Co. The then star from FC Barcelona went down with his team, Argentina had no chance against an unleashed Germany.

The young Messi, who was getting better and more dominant at FC Barcelona at the time, played the full 90 minutes in all five Argentina World Cup games in 2010. However, he failed to put his stamp on the tournament. He did not score a goal, only an assist in the round of 16 against Mexico was on his balance sheet at the end of the World Cup.

2014 – Top World Cup without a title

In Brazil 2014, Messi was arguably at the peak of his powers and had been Argentina’s leader for quite some time. The “Albiceleste” prevailed in three close matches against Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands in the knockout phase and reached the final. Messi scored four goals throughout the tournament.

In the final, the opponent was once again Germany. And for the third time in a row, the DFB selection played fate. In a tight and competitive game, both teams had the opportunity to secure the coveted trophy. In the 88th minute, national coach Joachim Löw sent Joker Mario Götze onto the field for Miroslav Klose – accompanied by the words: “Show the world that you’re better than Messi!” It came as it had to come: Götze decided the World Cup final with his goal in the 113th minute – the Argentines and their superstar were again at a disadvantage.

2018 rather pale – 2022 outstanding

2018 in Russia finally ended in the round of 16 for Argentina. The fact that the “Albiceleste” had to return home after what was probably the best game of the tournament (3:4 against France) was little consolation. Also for Messi, who remained pale in Russia.

So now the happy ending in Qatar. In the Gulf state, Messi was the captain, leader and absolute performer of the Argentine team. And not only did he win the long-awaited third world title with the South Americans, he also set a number of records. Against Poland, he became Argentina’s record World Cup player with his 22nd appearance. In the final against France he even became the sole World Cup record player. With 26 appearances, he left Lothar Matthäus behind in this statistic.

And even more important: Messi delivered at a high level, was there when it mattered. The superstar contributed seven goals and three assists to his team’s triumph, scoring twice alone in the final and again staying cool in the penalty shoot-out.

Messi’s second major title with the national team

Hard to believe, but true: it was Messi’s second major title with the national team. He won the first at the Copa America in 2021. Messi had finally led his country to the title after the ‘Albiceleste’ and their superstar had finished second three times since 2007. And that of all places in Brazil, at the archrival. He was the tournament’s top scorer with four goals and had five assists.

He is now building on these achievements in Qatar. And he finally won the long-awaited world title. Even without the gold trophy, Messi would have been one of the greatest in his sport. Almost 700 competitive goals and over 300 assists at FC Barcelona alone, a total of 35 titles, plus an almost unbelievable 172 international matches, in which he scored 98 goals and 55 assists.

But only with the World Cup title is his footballing lifetime achievement complete. Messi did it – at his last world tournament. He promptly withdrew the resignation he had announced before the game after the game – “I would like to play a few more games as world champion,” he said.

But he doesn’t have to prove anything anymore, not even in Argentina’s shirt. Because at the latest now he is on the same level as Diego Maradona. At least.

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