Lionel Messi has responded to reports about his future in international football, declaring his intentions to play on for Argentina after their World Cup triumph. Rumours had been rife in the lead-up to the final that this would be the last time we see Messi playing for Argentina at international level.
But the 35-year-old emphatically shut down the rumours after leading his country to glory on Sunday in a pulsating final against France. “No, I’m not going to retire from the national team,” he said in a post-match interview. “I want to keep playing as World Cup champions in the Argentina shirt.”
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Despite his desire to play on for Argentina, many believe this was Messi's swansong at the World Cup. He will be 39 by the time the next World Cup rolls around in 2026.
"It's anyone's childhood dream," he said of Argentina's triumph. "I was lucky to have achieved everything in this career ... and this one that was missing is here. It's madness ... look how she (the World Cup) is, she's gorgeous. I wanted her so much. I had a vision that this would be the one ... she was getting closer."
Messi now joins the pantheon of football greats including Diego Maradona and Pele with the final trophy that has eluded him in his illustrious career. It had taken five attempts and a record 26 World Cup finals matches, but the boy from Rosario finally delivered on Sunday.
"We suffer, but we already have it (the World Cup)," Messi said. "I wanted to close my career with this, I can no longer ask for anything else, thank God, he gave me everything. But I love football and I want to continue living a few more games being world champion."
Lionel Messi leads Argentina to World Cup glory
Sunday's final went to extra time after it finished 2-2 in regulation. After both teams scored in extra time the final was decided in a penalty shootout.
Messi scored twice and found the back of the net in the shootout as well, carrying his side to victory over France in what many believe was the greatest final in the competition's history. Kylian Mbappe became the first player to score a hat-trick in a men's final in 56 years as the two best players in the world shone in a spectacular duel in the Lusail Stadium near Doha.
Mbappe also scored in the penalty shootout but Argentina prevailed 4-2 to lift the World Cup for the third time and first since 1986. Gonzalo Montiel scored the clinching penalty to send Argentina players and fans into meltdown.
Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez was the hero of the shootout, saving Kingsley Coman's penalty before Aurelien Tchouameni fired wide. "This is my dream," said Martinez, who also won the Golden Glove as the tournament's best goalkeeper.
Messi also won the Golden Ball as the tournament's best player, just like he did in 2014. On that occasion the award gave him no pleasure after Argentina's 1-0 loss to Germany in the final.
This time he couldn't keep the smile off his face, rubbing his hands together as he eagerly awaited getting his hands on the World Cup trophy. He then joined his adoring teammates to celebrate their remarkable triumph.
Argentina had dominated the game early, going 2-0 up in the first half with Messi converting a 23rd-minute penalty. But France came back to level over 90 minutes with Mbappe netting twice in two minutes, first with an 80th-minute penalty and then a dazzling volley.
The superstar striker then completed his hat-trick in the 118th minute with another penalty after Messi had bundled in what looked to be the winner in the 109th minute.
really didn’t expect this but i’m not complaining
— FBL ™️ 🇦🇷 (@Footbollistic) December 18, 2022
Thought this was Messi's last dance for Argentina, but he just confirmed he's not retiring...pic.twitter.com/S3FSFalkPy
— F R E D🇦🇷 (@AFCFrediNho) December 18, 2022
Messi is not retiring. And neither am I. We’ll go out together.
— MC (@CrewsMat10) December 18, 2022
— Leo Messi 🔟 (@WeAreMessi) December 18, 2022
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