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Lionel Messi-final will be last World Cup game for Argentina

Argentina captain Lionel Messi says Sunday’s final will be his last World Cup game of his career.

The 35-year-old forward scored his fifth goal of Qatar 2022 to help set up two others in Tuesday’s 3-0 semi-final win over Croatia.

Playing in his fifth World Cup, Messi has never won the game’s biggest prize.

“I am very happy for finishing my journey in World Cups in a final, to play the last game in a final. That is really very gratifying,” he said.

“Everything I lived in this World Cup has been emotional, seeing how much it has been enjoyed in Argentina.

“There are a lot of years from this year to the next one. I don’t think I will be able to do that. To finish this way is brilliant.”

Argentina will play France or Morocco, who meet on Wednesday in the final, when Messi is set to make a record 26th appearance in a men’s World Cup.

Messi has won the Ballon d’Or awarded to the world’s best player a record seven times and has been named Fifa Best Men’s Player once.

Other honours include four Champions Leagues, 11 top-flight titles and Copa America glory with Argentina in 2021.

The World Cup is the one glaring omission, Argentina having lost to Germany in the 2014 final in Brazil.

Messi, who plays for French giants Paris St-Germain, is one of only six men to have appeared in five World Cups, along German Lothar Matthaus, Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, and Antonio Carbajal, Andres Guardado and Rafael Marquez of Mexico.

Currently leading the Golden Boot race in Qatar alongside France’s Kylian Mbappe, Messi became the first Argentina player to score in four World Cups and also became their record World Cup scorer with 11 goals.

He made his Argentina debut at the age of 18 in 2005 and has scored 97 goals in 172 games.

The 2026 World Cup will be held in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Writing by Tersoo Nicholas