Lionel Messi is ready to make the most of Argentina’s World Cup final on Sunday after leading his team to a 3-0 semi-final win over Croatia.
The 35-year-old was instrumental in the victory against Croatia as Argentina set up a meeting against France or Morocco in the final.
Many did not anticipate Argentina reaching this stage after an embarrassing defeat against Saudi Arabia in their opening group stage match.
However, they have since turned around their form, inspired in no small part by Messi’s efforts.
He has scored five goals at the World Cup – level with Kylian Mbappe in the Golden Boot standings – and against Croatia he put on another superb performance.
His goal in the first half from the spot contributed to victory, but his assist to make light work of Josko Gvardiol to set up Manchester City’s Julian Alvarez drew the most praise and attention.
Speaking at a press conference, Messi noted that Argentina knew they would have to deal with a technically competent opponent.
“We knew we would play this way and that’s why we were not desperate when we ran from side to side. We knew they would have possession but that could be our strength,” he said.
The former Barcelona man noted the turnaround in form of the team.
“After the first game [loss against Saudi Arabia] I asked people to trust us, because we know what we are capable of. Argentina will play in another World Cup final! We have to enjoy it.”
Messi then singled out Manchester City forward Alvarez for praise, saying: “Every player did very well, but if I have to choose I would give this [man of the match] award to Julian. He had an extraordinary game.”
Manager Lionel Scaloni was happy to declare Messi the greatest, telling reporters: “Sometimes it can look like we only say that as Argentinians but I don’t have any doubt…Every time he plays it’s a huge source of motivation for his team-mates.
“There’s nothing left to say about Messi, it’s a privilege to have him.”