By India Today Web Desk: Lionel Messi and Argentina’s journey in the 2022 FIFA World Cup has been one of ebbs and flows. They went from losing their opening match against minnows Saudi Arabia to winning the World Cup in Qatar.
Argentina, who came into the 2022 FIFA World Cup on the back of a Copa America triumph, were one of the favorites to lift the prestigious trophy.
However, their World Cup journey did not start as intended. They fell to a 2-1 defeat against Saudi Arabia in their opening Group C. Messi opened the scoring in the 10th minute but succumbed to a fantastic comeback from the Saudi Arabians.
With their qualification hopes on the line, Messi stepped up for Argentina and scored the opening goal in a tense matchup with Mexico. Enzo Fernandez scored a screamer as the Albiceleste finished the game as 2-0 winners.
In their third and final Group C match against Poland, only a win would guarantee a spot in the knockout stages of the Qatar World Cup. The game started off in horrendous fashion with Messi missing a penalty. But goals from Alexis Mac Allister and Julian Alvarez guided Argentina to a 2-0 win over Robert Lewandowski’s Poland.
THE KNOCKOUT STAGES
Argentina were drawn against Australia in the round of 16 stage. Messi was the man for the moment as he slotted his penalty past Matt Ryan to give Argentina an early lead. Alvarez scored the second goal for Argentina as they ran out 2-1 winner against the Socceroos.
In the quarter-finals, they met the Netherlands. With previous bad blood between the two sides due to shared history with Dutch coach Louis Van Gaal. The game was tense throughout with tackles flying left, right and centre. Nahuel Molina scored before Messi slotted his penalty to give Argentina a 2-0 lead. But Wout Weghorst scored a late brace to take the game to extra-time and eventually penalties. In the penalty shootout, the Argentines prevailed, beating Netherlands 4-3.
The next challenge that awaited Messi and co. were 2018 runners-up Croatia. It was the Messi and Alvarez show as Argentina outclassed Luka Modric’s Croatia 3-0 in the semi-final. Messi scored the first goal and provided a scintillating assist for Alvarez’s second goal of the day in Argentina’s win.
THE BIG FINAL
With the world’s eyes on Messi, Argentina started the final off in great fashion. Messi scored the opening goal through a penalty before Angel Di Maria doubled their lead in the first half. However, a two-minute blitz by Kylian Mbappe saw him score a brace and bring France back in the game. Messi scored again in extra-time and just when it seemed like Argentina were going to win the World Cup, Mbappe stepped up to convert his penalty and level the scores at the Lusail Stadium.
However, Argentina managed to hold their nerve and prevailed 4-2 winners over Les Bleus to lift the 2022 FIFA World Cup trophy.