Lionel Messi is preparing for what could be his final World Cup and there are high expectations for him to win it at the fifth attempt. Argentina are set to face Saudi Arabia in the first of four matches today.
The 35-year-old has set the world alight for the past 15 years or so, becoming highly regarded as one of the best footballers to ever play the game, however he has struggled to replicate his club success into international football. Messi’s continued disappointments with Argentina led him to announce his retirement from the national team following defeat to Chile in the Copa America final six years ago. However, the former Barcelona forward quickly changed his decision and has since won his first major tournament with Argentina and will now hope to claim his second this winter.
With stars alongside him including Angel Di Maria and Paulo Dybala, Lionel Scaloni’s side are seen as one of the favourites to lift the World Cup next month. Ahead of their opening clash with Saudi Arabia, we take a look at Messi’s international career:
Lionel Messi’s international career so far
After bursting onto the scene with Barcelona as a teenager, Messi made his international debut as an 18-year-old in 2005 and was sent off only two minutes into his cameo against Hungary. He went onto become the youngest player to represent Argentina at a World Cup the following summer and then became the sixth youngest goalscorer in the tournament’s history when he netted in a 6-0 victory against Serbia and Montenegro.
Despite not playing much at the World Cup, Messi quickly became their star man, though struggled to drag a rather disappointing team to any silverware. Previous to last year, Messi had reached three Copa America finals and lost in each of them - suffering a 3-0 thrashing to Brazil in 2007, before losing on penalties to Chile in both 2015 and 2016. The latter two also followed World Cup heartbreak in 2014, when the Argentine featured in his first final but was defeated by a memorable 113th minute winner by Germany’s Mario Gotze in Brazil.
Messi’s luck finally came however, when he lifted the Copa America trophy last summer. After finishing top of Group A, Argentina went on to beat Ecuador and Colombia before facing a familiar opponent in Brazil in the finale in Rio de Janeiro. Di Maria’s first half goal proved to be the difference as Messi claimed his first major international title and Argentina’s first since 1993.
How many international goals has Messi scored?
Since making his international debut for Argentina, Messi has netted 91 goals in 165 appearances. This includes six at the World Cup finals and eight at the Copa America. The PSG star also has eight international hat-tricks and ten braces.
How many international goals has rival Cristiano Ronaldo scored?
Earning his first cap for Portugal two years before Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo has 191 appearances to his name and has scored a whopping 117 goals in the process. The Manchester United forward holds the record for the most international hat-tricks with ten and is also the record top scorer in men’s international football.