The 35-Year-Old Messi Hopes To Lead Argentina To Its First World Cup Victory Since 1986.

By When Messi made his Argentina debut, the hype surrounding this exciting teenage talent was surging. When he chose Argentina over Spain, he excelled for the U20s, scoring twice in the U20 World Cup final in July 2005 and earning his first senior cap in an August friendly against Hungary in 2005 as an 18-year-old. When Messi represented - and scored for - Argentina at the 2006 World Cup, he was the youngest player in history to do so.

As a second-half substitute, Messi was only on the field for a few minutes before he threw an arm at Vilmos Vanczak. As Messi darted past, the defender grabbed a clump of his shirt, and the little forward barely caught his opponent as he attempted to escape. Although the Hungarian was given a yellow card, Messi was issued a red card. Afterward, he was found crying in the dressing room.

While Messi has enormous ability, perhaps this was a symbolic moment hinting at the frustrations and obstacles he would later face on the international stage. In much the same way that his debut did not go as he had hoped, his international career has not turned out as he had desired. The fact that Messi has an Olympic gold medal in his possession makes up for his disappointment in Argentina's colors. As Messi was already a key player for Barcelona in 2008, his club initially prohibited him from participating in the tournament, since it clashed with the Champions League qualifying process. The new Barca manager, Pep Guardiola, had a different perspective, which was fortunate for Messi and Argentina.

A former Olympic champion himself, Guardiola understood the importance of the competition to Messi and his countrymen, which is why he granted his permission to attend. Argentina reached the final with Messi setting up the only goal for Argentina against Nigeria in the game. Messi took full advantage of the chance - and the tournament - playing a key role in Argentine's progress to the final. He cherishes this victory. In an interview with the Spanish publication, Esquire, he stated that he values the Olympic gold medal most of all. A tournament such as this may only be played once in a lifetime, and it involves athletes from a variety of disciplines.

After finishing runner-up in 2014, the team lost the Copa America finals in 2007, 2015, and 2016 before lifting the trophy in 2021. Having failed to score and received considerable criticism in South Africa in 2010, the 2014 World Cup in Brazil presented Messi with the perfect opportunity to finally lead Argentina to glory on the world stage. As captain, he led the team from the front, scoring important goals in all three group games.

With regards to the knockout rounds, he emerged as a provider, assisting the late extra-time winner against Switzerland and initiating the move that resulted in Belgium's only goal. In the semi-final shootout against the Netherlands, his assured penalty set the tone. Nevertheless, he was unable to motivate his teammates to take the final step in the final. After Mario Gotze's extra-time winner secured Germany's win, Messi said, "It is very painful to lose in this manner."

During the tournament, Messi was controversially selected as the best player in the competition and awarded the Golden Ball. After Argentina's defeat, he stated, "I am not interested in the prize at all." Even though Messi had the Golden Ball, he missed the opportunity to emulate Diego Maradona with a World Cup victory. As Messi announced his international retirement after Argentina's Copa America final defeat by Chile, he said: "For me, the national team is over. I have done everything I can."

Argentina lost to their South American neighbors on penalties after a 0-0 stalemate in the 2015 Copa America final. While Messi had contributed at crucial moments during both competitions, his record in major finals reads four finals, four defeats after suffering heartbreak in the 2007 edition of the competition. Having become overly disappointed, the pain had become unbearable. Argentina's fans have frequently criticized Messi, but now they are calling for him to change his mind. A World Cup qualifier against Uruguay saw Messi reverse his decision and score the lone goal in the 1-0 victory. With the renewed motivation to win major honors with his country, Messi set his sights on Russia in 2018.

Argentina was in serious danger of missing out on Russia 2018 after suffering setbacks throughout the extended South American qualifying campaign, despite reaching the finals of the 2014 World Cup, 2015 and 2016 Copa Americas. Could Argentina miss out on the tournament for the first time since 1970? Argentina's captain excelled in the decisive match against Ecuador. Messi's hat trick secured Argentina's comeback win and a spot at the World Cup with just 38 seconds left on the clock.