DOHA, Qatar (AP) — After the match, an Argentine reporter conducting a post-match interview with Messi broke off from asking questions and told him that, whatever happened in the final, he had succeeded in making a mark on every Argentine’s life and was bringing joy to the country.

And for Messi, it is now about more than just winning soccer matches.

“It is no longer only the result but the road we have traveled,” he said. “Before in Argentina, it was valued to win or lose, but I think people now value other things.”

That may be so, but winning the World Cup would cement his legacy, allowing him to join Pele and Maradona in the pantheon of soccer’s greatest players. He might be there already, but being a World Cup winner would end the debate.

Messi reiterated that this would most probably be his last dance at a World Cup — he will turn 39 during the 2026 tournament in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

And he’s been doing plenty of dancing, on the field after matches and in the locker room, as Argentina has rebounded with five wins following a shocking loss to Saudi Arabia in its World Cup opener.

“It was an acid test for this whole squad but this squad proved how strong we are,” Messi said. “We won the next matches. It was very difficult what we did because every match was a final and this was a mental load because we knew things would be more complicated for us.

“We managed to win five finals and I hope it will be this way for the last game. Internally, we were confident that we would make it because we know what we are capable of as a squad.”

After the victory over the Netherlands in the quarterfinals, Messi said Maradona — who died two years ago — was looking over the team as Argentina came through a heated, fiery match.

“Diego is watching us from heaven,” Messi said. “He is pushing us. I hope it stays like that until the end.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *