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Lionel Messi’s World Cup history: Struggles, heartbreak and magic for Argentina

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Lionel Messi will break the record for most World Cup appearances when he leads Argentina against France in Sunday’s final.

Barring injury, Messi will break the record of German great Lothar Matthaus with his 26th final appearance since his debut 16 years ago.

Here we see his story on the game’s biggest stage.


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Appearances: 3, Goals: 1

Messi was used mainly from the bench in his first World Cup as a teenager, then scored a late goal and rounded off a 6-0 win over Serbia, then known as Serbia and Montenegro.

He started against the Netherlands in Argentina’s final group game, but returned as a substitute in the extra-time Round of 16 win over Mexico on his 19th birthday. He did not participate as the Albiceleste were eliminated on penalties in the quarterfinals against Germany.


Appearances: 5, Goals: 0

Already a full-fledged starter and clad in his signature number 10 shirt, Messi played every minute of Argentina’s campaign but failed to score in all five games.

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He had an assist for Carlos Tevez as they again beat Mexico in the round of 16, but were once again knocked out in the next round by Germany, this time 4-0.


Appearances: 7, Goals: 4

Germany continued to frustrate Argentina and Messi, but not before he inspired them to the final at the Maracana, home of arch-rivals Brazil.

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Messi played all but 23 minutes of his team’s seven games, scoring four goals and also scoring in the penalty shootout that defeated the Netherlands in the semi-final. He was named player of the tournament for his efforts.

Lionel Messi reacts after the World Cup final

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Appearances: 4, Goals: 1

A disappointing tournament for Argentina under Jorge Sampaoli, but Messi remained as impressive as ever.

They opened the scoring against Nigeria in their final group match as they bounced back from a 3-0 loss to Croatia with a vital win. After drawing with Iceland in their opening game, a game in which Messi missed a penalty, Argentina had done enough to reach the round of 16, but Group C winners France, who prevailed 4-4, were waiting for them. 3. great success despite two assists from Messi.


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Appearances: 6, Goals: 5

With the current tournament being painted, Michael Jordan-esque, as a “last dance” for Messi, he has been a talismanic presence once again and inspired his run to the final after a shock opening loss to Saudi Arabia.

The 35-year-old has scored in five of his six matches, no doubt with the help of four penalties, scoring three, to lead the Golden Boot standings alongside the France striker and his Paris St team-mate. Germain, Kylian Mbappe.

Three assists on top of that mean he’s been directly involved in eight of Argentina’s 12 goals, with his riveting run setting up the third against Croatia for Julián Álvarez, arguably his most memorable contribution from another all-star tournament.

Historical matches: 25, Goals: 11

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