Argentina captain, Lionel Messi, has said this year’s tournament in Qatar will be the final World Cup of his career.
Messi said he is “very happy” that his last World Cup game will be in Sunday’s final.
The former Barcelona forward scored and set up Julian Alvarez at the Lusail Iconic Stadium on Tuesday night to beat Croatia 3-0 in the semi-final, setting up a monumental final against either France or Morocco.
The 35-year-old star, whose five goals in Qatar can only be equalled by Paris Saint-Germain team-mate, Kylian Mbappe, has given himself one last shot at winning the only trophy that evades him.
“I am very happy for finishing my journey in World Cups in a final, to play the last game in a final. That is really very gratifying.
“Everything I lived in this World Cup has been emotional, seeing how much it has been enjoyed in Argentina.
“There are a lot of years from this year to the next one. I don’t think I will be able to do that. To finish this way is brilliant,” the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner said on Tuesday night.
Messi, who was part of the Argentina squad that lost in the 2014 final to Germany in Brazil, added that the shock opening game defeat to Saudi Arabia made Argentina stronger and praised the response of his team-mates.
He said: “I would say the first match (the defeat against Saudi Arabia) was a hard blow because we had been unbeaten in 36 matches. To start in such a way in a World Cup, we did not think we would lose to Saudi Arabia.
“It was an acid test of the whole squad but we proved how strong we are. We won the other matches and it was very difficult what we did. Every match was a final and we were aware if we did not win, things would be complicated for us.
“We have won five finals and I hope this is the case for the final on Sunday. We lost in the first match due to fine details but it helped us to be stronger.”
Messi’s lack of a World Cup trophy has been the only real criticism of the former Barcelona forward when it comes to the debate about the world’s greatest-ever footballer, with Diego Maradona and Pele both having lifted the trophy.
He announced his retirement from international football in 2016 after losing in the Copa America final against Chile, but he quickly reversed his decision and has since remained the captain of the team.