Lionel Messi has confirmed that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar which will kick off in November is his last World Cup as a professional footballer.
The 35-year-old Argentina star, will be making his fifth and final appearance in the tournament since making his debut 20 years ago.
Speaking with Star Plus, Lionel Messi admitted that he is bit nervous and anxious with the fact that this will be his last World Cup.
“There’s some anxiety and nerves at the same time. It is the last one”, Lionel Messi confirmed.
After confirming that the forthcoming World Cup will be his last, Lionel Messi failed to confirm precisely whether he will retire from the national team or not after the tournament.
Leading the team to 35 matches unbeaten, The PSG star hopes to lead the team to the World Cup trophy to round up his storied career in a grand style.
After eluded attempts to win a trophy for the Argentina national team, Lionel Messi finally won the Copa America in 2021 against Brazil.
Messi expressed his optimism about Argentina in the 2022 World Cup, admitting that the team is among the clear favorites to win the tournament.
“In a World Cup, anything can happen. All the matches are very tough. The favourites don’t always end up winning,” Messi said. “I don’t know if we’re the favourites, but Argentina is always a candidate because of its history. Now even more so because of the moment we’re in, but we are not the favourites. I think there are other teams that are above us.”
Argentina won the World Cup in 1978 and 1986. The team will open the tournament on Nov. 22 against Saudi Arabia in Group C before facing Mexico and Poland.
“I feel good, physically,” Messi noted. “I had a good preseason this year, which I wasn’t able to do the year before [when he moved from Barca to PSG]. It was key to starting off better, as I did, with a lot of mental focus and eagerness.”
Messi’s record with Argentina stands in stark contrast to his success at club level. Argentina came close to ending their long trophy drought on three occasions but were beaten by Germany in the 2014 World Cup final and by Chile in the 2015 and 2016 Copa America finals.
“I have been playing with the national team for a long time now,” Messi added. “There have been spectacular moments, like in 2014, 2015 and 2016, but we didn’t win and were criticized for not being champions.
“We did everything right until the finals.”
Despite not having won the trophy for the Argentina national team, Lionel Messi said he is positive heading to Qatar as the elder statesman in a team full of youngsters.
“It’s been very hard, but in 2019 a new group with many young people came and won the Copa America. That helped us a lot,” Messi noted. “I couldn’t believe it, can’t explain it. It’s one of the goals I needed to wrap everything up. It was very important for me to win something with the national team, if not that monkey was always going to be on my back, all those lost finals.”
“I would’ve liked to have enjoyed it with the people of Argentina. It’s crazy how they experienced it, the aftermath. They’re crazy over the team, excited. That’s why it’s good to turn it down, we’re going to fight against anybody, but we don’t think we’re the champions. We think we’re just going to walk over anybody, but it’s not like that. The first game is key.”
“My love of the Argentinean people is unconditional. I’m very grateful to have experienced and enjoyed everything I have. It was very special.”
Lionel Messi came close to winning the World Cup with the Argentina national team in 2010 in South Africa.
Argentina made it to the finals playing Spain. They lost by a lone goal after former Barcelona star, Andreas Iniesta, scored the winner.
In the 2014 and 2018 editions, Argentina has not failed to make it out of the group stage but crashed out in the knockouts.
Lionel Messi will lead the team against the United Arab Emirates in their final warm-up match before the group stages of the World Cup kicks off in November.