Argentina captain Lionel Messi has confirmed that the final match of the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2022 will be his last game for his country. The 35-year-old football star will be wearing the sky and white stripes for the last time on Sunday when two-time world champions Argentina play the final of this edition's tournament.
Messi confirmed the news on Tuesday during an interview on Latin American streaming service Star+, per Argentine outlet TN. The announcement comes hours after Argentina defeated Croatia in the first semifinal of the ongoing World Cup, with Messi scoring once from the penalty and providing assists in his team's two other goals.
It was being speculated that the World Cup could be Messi's last major international tournament. On Tuesday, he confirmed that his journey with Argentina will end on Sunday after the World Cup final.
"I feel very happy to be able to achieve this, to finish my World Cup journey by playing my last game in a final," Messi told Argentine media outlet Diario Deportivo Ole.
"It's many years for the next one and I don't think I'll be able to do it. And to finish like this, it's the best," added the Argentina captain.
The 35-year-old is playing in his fifth World Cup, surpassing Javier Mascherano and Diego Maradona's four. He also eclipsed Gabriel Batistuta, who had 11 goals for the Albiceleste at World Cups, with his fifth goal in Qatar.
The PSG forward put up a performance in front of a large crowd at Qatar's Lusail Stadium that many regarded as his greatest in recent memory. This will be Messi's final opportunity to win the World Cup before he hangs up his boots. He had ended up as a runner-up after losing to Germany in 2014 in Brazil.
"It's all well and good (the records), but the important thing is to be able to achieve the group objective, which is the most beautiful thing of all," Messi added. "We're just one step away, after fighting hard, and we're going to give everything to try to make it happen this time."
A Memorable Journey
Argentina looked invincible in their semifinal match against Croatia, handing the last edition's runners-up a 3-0 defeat. The captain of Argentina converted a penalty kick to put his team up 1-0 against Croatia in the 34th minute of the first semi-final game at Lusail Stadium.
With 11 goals, Messi has tied German goal-scoring machine Jurgen Klinsmann and Hungarian legend Sandor Kocsis. Only five players have scored more goals in a FIFA World Cup than Messi: Pele (12), Just Fontaine (13), Gerd Muller (14), Ronaldo (15), and Miroslav Klose (16).
This match was also his 25th World Cup match, the most for any Argentinian player alongside Lothar Matthaus.
Following Tuesday's victory, thousands of Argentine fans took to the streets to commemorate the country's sixth World Cup final appearance. Argentina will play the championship match against either the Group D winners, France, or the Group F winners, Morocco.