Messi’s latest World Cup isn’t just a competition. It’s a cause, a rebellion | World Cup 2022

Lionel Messi has the goodbye he wanted. Or the scene for it, at least. Sunday, the striker – a famous failure at international level – will play his sixth Grand Final with Argentina. It will be his 26th World Cup game, more than anyone else, another record amassed; it will also be his last.

“To be able to finish my journey in the final makes me happy, and everything that I have experienced here is beautiful,” said Messiah at the end of another night honored by another moment, like a gift offered: something to hold. when he left. . Which is four days from now.

Four days. A night. Everyone ‘knew’ it would be Messi’s last world Cup, the feeling that you may not see him clinging to each game again. He knew it too, which is part of why it turned out this way: call it mission, destiny, or just pleasure. Enjoy the day, there isn’t much left. And yet, 16 years after his first, as a substitute in this 6-0 victory against Serbia and Montenegro, the hearing confirmed struck again. Wait what? Will the final be your last? “Yes, that will surely be the case,” Messi said on Tuesday night. “It’s many years until the next [World Cup] and I don’t think I can. Ending this way is nice.

Quick guide

Qatar: beyond football


It’s a World Cup like no other. For the past 12 years, the Guardian has reported on the issues surrounding Qatar 2022, from corruption and human rights abuses to the treatment of migrant workers and discriminatory laws. The best of our journalism is brought together on our dedicated site Qatar: Beyond Football homepage for those who want to delve deeper into issues beyond the field.

The goalkeepers’ reporting goes far beyond what is happening on the pitch. Support our investigative journalism today.

Photography: Caspar Benson

Thank you for your opinion.

So it’s goodbye as far as Argentina is concerned. Still, what a way to go. It’s not done yet: the greatest game of all awaits you. It’s colossal, of course. But even getting there was a bit like something had been gained, like a realization had been reached. By Messi and about Messi. You don’t know what you have until it’s (almost) gone. Late at the Lusail stadium, a Tier 0 Argentinian TV reporter chose not to ask her last question. Instead, and you may have seen the clip before, she used it to say thank you: “Whatever the outcome, you made people happy,” she said. “You have impacted everyone’s life.”

Eventually he made himself happy too, with more than a little help from new friends and old ones. At the end of the Copa América 2016, beaten by Chile in the final, he had taken off. He hadn’t always felt embraced, the overwhelming weight; he said he came to feel that it was all his fault. As he was told here, “You must have eaten a lot of shit.” Yes, he conceded, but it’s different now. “I’ve been enjoying everything that’s been happening to us for a while now. Being able to end all of this in the final makes me happy.

This has been the doctrine of manager Lionel Scaloni: the sun will rise tomorrow. Messi has embraced that message and the time he has left; it has also become his message, and one gets the sense that his teammates are invested not only in Argentina’s success, but also in his happiness, in delivering justice.

“People have understood that this is something that we have to take advantage of,” Messi said. “We did extraordinary things: the Copa America, 36 games without defeat, a World Cup final. Obviously we all want to win it but it’s a football game and anything can happen. Hope it will be different from Brazil [in 2014, when they lost against Germany]. I don’t know if it’s my best World Cup, but I’ve been enjoying it since we arrived here.

In Qatar, he has five goals and three assists. The stellar moments here are his. The goal against Mexico and the goal against Australia, so both very Messi, seen a thousand times if not quite like that. The absurd support against Croatiainstant iconography: Josko Gvardiol, the defender everyone was talking about, turned and turned, hips broken, legs tied in a cartoon knot.

Messi tops the tournament stats in terms of goals, assists, chances created, dribbles and fouls suffered. Which still hasn’t stopped him. He played every minute. He was a Maradonian. He was Maradonaing, In fact. And it’s not just about excellence; there is the energy, the expression of commitment, the identification. The sacrifice. Messi had been holding his hamstring for a long time, then he did it this in Gvardiol. It’s about the absolute refusal to let go: he’s the one who said it didn’t happen after the defeat of Saudi Arabia. The direction, pulling them through. There may not be a moment of skill like the semi-final, but it doesn’t compare to the release of his goal against Mexico.

Argentina's Lionel Messi celebrates after the 3-0 win over Croatia.
Lionel Messi’s Argentina teammates want to help their star finish his World Cup career with the biggest prize. Photograph: Shaun Botterill/Fifa/Getty Images

There was the flash of anger that preceded the goal against Australia. The confrontations against the Netherlands. The edge, the aggressiveness, the shithousery if you like. The: what are you looking at, fool? Argentinian fans loved it. Messi seems to have it too. “He’s always been that way,” Scaloni insists, and there’s a fierce, furious competitor in him, but the fact the coach had to say so was instructive. They’ve never felt him so close, and he’s never felt them like this. It’s not just a competition, it’s a cause. A rebellion.

“Sometimes it’s an extreme situation, it’s not easy to go on the pitch knowing that you have to win and otherwise you go home. We’ve been doing this since the second game. It has a very big mental cost , and the group overcame that,” he said. “We’ve played five ‘finals’ and we’ve got one more.”

It would be a mistake to forget how he pulled them to finals before, but that’s something else again. It looks different, sounds different, acts different. Not least because it’s a different generation traveling with him, his changing role, some of the weight of the past relieved, left behind. Yet there is also a legacy, says Scaloni, in what he leaves them. In turn, they desperately wanted to let him have that last dance.

“What he did in the Copa América was incredible but I’ve never seen anything like this World Cup in my life,” said goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez. Cristian Romero added: “It’s madness. Everyone knows what he is as a player, but that’s the kind of person he is. He is an example, a guy who always wants more. He took so many beatings but he always gets back up.

In recent days, a photo has made the rounds: we see Julián Álvarez, 11, alongside his idol, Lionel Messi. He now has another 11 years later: teammates this time, Messi holds him in a headlock and beams after the Manchester City striker scored against Croatia.

“The things Leo can do are amazing,” he said, and he had seen it firsthand, there to complete an impossible assist, the best in the competition. Except maybe the one Messi gave Nahuel Molina in the previous round.

Messi had provided that pass and the tackle pass that freed Álvarez, running and grouped, to score the second. It was Enzo Fernández, meanwhile, who delivered the ball that allowed Messi to score first, via the penalty spot. And he, too, had grown up watching the man who had given Argentina the lead, who had caught them and dragged them to a second World Cup final, much like Maradona.

In 2016, when Messi considered walking away, Fernández posted a message on Facebook that signed off saying sorry and thank you. He said, “How are we, a bunch of suckers who don’t live with 1% of the pressure you’re under, 40 million people making ridiculous demands for perfection when we don’t even know you, let’s try to get you convince ? Do what you want but remember to stay and enjoy it.

Now, at last, it is, the time of his life and theirs, taking us all to a final farewell.

Leave a Reply