No player has played in more FIFA World Cup matches than Lionel Messi.
The Argentine icon has played in five editions of the tournament and has scored more goals in the finals than any of his compatriots. But he arrived at Qatar 2022 without having won football’s biggest prize.
Hailed as one of the greatest players to ever play the game, Messi has won almost every team and individual trophy available to him in his illustrious career.
Hopes that he would inspire Argentina to World Cup glory, as Mario Kempes did in 1978 and Diego Maradona did in 1986, were dashed in Messi’s first four tournaments. Qatar 2022 represents one last chance.
As he tries to walk away from the World Cup in glorious style, The Sporting News covers how the famous trophy has eluded Messi’s grasp so far.
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Why has Lionel Messi never won a World Cup?
Since making his World Cup debut at the age of 18, Messi has featured in five consecutive editions of the tournament but is yet to win.
As Argentina prepare to face France in Messi’s last chance to win a World Cup, his history in the competition will no doubt be relevant to the match.
Messi at the 2006 World Cup: A disappointing substitute
After making his international debut against Hungary in August 2005 and going on to contribute to Argentina’s World Cup qualifying campaign, Messi was included in head coach José Pekermann’s squad for Germany 2006.
Despite establishing himself as a star with Barcelona the previous season, Messi was among the substitutes as Argentina got off to a winning start against Ivory Coast.
His World Cup debut came in the following game, a 6–0 win over Serbia and Montenegro, in which he assisted Argentina’s fourth goal and scored their sixth, making him the sixth youngest goalscorer in World Cup history.
Messi played from the start in a goalless draw against the Netherlands and featured in Argentina’s 2-1 last-16 win over Mexico, but was an unused substitute as Germany knocked the Albiceleste out of the tournament 4-2 on penalties following a 1-1 draw in Berlin .
In 2006, 18-year-old Leo Messi made his World Cup debut in Argentina’s group game against Serbia and Montenegro — he came on as a substitute in the 74th minute to assist and score in a 6-0 win 💫
— B/R Football (@brfootball) December 13, 2022
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Messi at the 2010 World Cup: Deja vu in the quarter-finals
Despite being a four-time La Liga winner with Barcelona, Messi arrived at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa having endured a qualifying campaign in which Argentina failed to impress.
His comeback from four goals in 18 qualifying games was curtailed by head coach Diego Maradona, who released him out of position, but at the tournament itself, Maradona deployed Messi in his preferred role behind two strikers and he shone as Argentina won all three of their games in the group.
A 3-1 win over Mexico in the round of 16 secured Argentina a clash with their old foes Germany, but Die Mannschaft once again knocked the Albiceleste out of the World Cup in the quarter-finals, this time with a 4-0 win.
Messi at the 2014 World Cup: First final
Messi came to the 2014 World Cup in mixed form after a disappointing domestic season with Barcelona, but quickly dispelled any doubts about his fitness for the tournament by scoring in all three of Argentina’s group stage wins as captain.
Angel Di Maria’s extra-time winner in the Round of 16 win over Switzerland came courtesy of an assist from Messi, and the Argentina number 10 helped his side beat Belgium and the Netherlands as they reached a World Cup final for the first time since 1990.
There they met Germany once more, and the result was another loss for Argentina as Messi missed several goal-scoring chances before Mario Gotze’s extra-time goal sealed a 1-0 victory for Joachim Low’s men.
World Cup 2014
After a goalless WC in 2010, Messi probably had his best tournament in Brazil.
And scored 4 stunning goals ✨
2. against Bosnia and Herzegovina
3. against Iran
4 and 5. v. Nigeria
He finished with the Ballon d’Or after Argentina reached the finalpic.twitter.com/9jRQpnrby3
— Sportstar (@sportstarweb) December 13, 2022
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Messi at the 2018 World Cup: Overruled by Mbappe
Argentina were on the brink of a disastrous group stage exit at Russia 2018 when Messi scored a superb opener in a 2-1 win over Nigeria that sent them through to the knockout stages.
In the Round of 16, Argentina faced France and Messi assisted Gabriel Mercado to score in the 48th minute, giving them a 2–1 lead.
But France rallied and after Benjamin Pavard scored a spectacular equaliser, the breakout star of the tournament, Kylian Mbappe, scored a brace to help France win 4-3.
Messi and Mbappe will go head-to-head on Sunday as two of the world’s best players look to write another chapter in World Cup history, but only one of them will be awarded the game’s most coveted award.
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