Considered one of the greatest players the world has ever seen, Lionel Messi is the crown jewel of Argentina's modern generation.
Nicknamed "La Pulga" for his smaller size, Messi has dazzled fans across the globe across his 18-year career. Playing for Barcelona and PSG at club level, Messi has been at the forefront of the Argentina national team since his international debut in 2005.
Yet, for so long, the 35-year-old had been dogged by a lack of international success for years, unable to hoist an international trophy for a significant portion of his time with Argentina.
That changed in 2021 when he won the Copa America able to shake the narrative and prove he can win at the highest level.
And at Qatar 2022 that script was finally rewritten once and for all, as Messi lifted the biggest prize in international football as Argentina beat France in a thrilling final on penalties, after a 3-3 draw.
Here, The Sporting News brings you all the details on Lionel Messi's time at the FIFA World Cup.
Has Lionel Messi won the World Cup?
Finally, the answer to that question is an emphatic 'yes'!
Messi had never won a FIFA World Cup prior to Qatar 2022. It was the only major trophy available to him that he had not won throughout his career.
For a long time, Messi was missing a major international trophy at all, having won it all at club level multiple times but he was yet to win with Argentina.
That changed in 2021 when he lifted the Copa America, beating Brazil in the final and finishing as joint-top scorer in the tournament. Messi won the tournament's best player award as well.
Messi said that victory gave him "peace of mind" as he was able to lift the international monkey off his back, but failing to achieve a World Cup title still weighed on his mind.
"We're not World Cup favorites [in 2022] but we will fight," Messi said after the 3-0 victory over Italy in the inaugural Finalissima in the summer of 2022.
"We continue to say that we are not the top favorites, but we will put up a fight against anyone because this group is hopeful, it has clear goals."
Messi admitted back then that he likely had just one shot left to win a World Cup with Argentina. He announced in early October that the 2022 tournament will be his final one.
"This will be my last World Cup — for sure," Messi said at the time. "The decision has been made."
Has Lionel Messi played in a World Cup final before?
Messi went so close to lifting the World Cup trophy in 2014, nearly winning the tournament on rival soil in Brazil.
With the hosts embarrassed by Germany in the semifinals, Argentina had the chance to take home the title and stick it to Brazil at their most famous stadium.
They got by Switzerland and Belgium by 1-0 scorelines in the first two knockout matches before a 0-0 draw with the Netherlands in the semifinals nearly did them in, but they advanced 4-2 on penalties.
Messi and the Argentina attack continued to sputter in the final, failing to find the back of the net before Mario Gotze's extra-time winner saw Germany prevail 1-0, leaving Messi and Argentina to rue what could have been.
Messi himself missed a key chance in the 72nd minute, firing a shot wide while one-on-one with Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.
Messi was awarded the Golden Ball for the best player at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, but that would not serve to heal the wounds from the match.
He competed in his second World Cup final in 2022, as Argentina finally gave him the victory he so craved in one of the best finals of all time.
Lionel Messi World Cup matches, goals
While Messi has done his best to push Argentina towards World Cup glory, his own personal return from his four World Cup appearances prior to 2022 had been disappointing.
"La Pulga" had reached past the quarterfinals of the World Cup just once, in the 2014 run to the final in Brazil that ultimately came up just short.
The most glaring number was his record in the knockout stage. Before the 2022 World Cup, he had not scored a goal in eight previous knockout round matches (756 minutes of play).
That changed in the 2022 knockout match against Australia in which he scored the opener, and then he followed up with a goal in the quarterfinal and the semifinal as well as a memorable double in the final. In doing so he became the first player to score in every round of the modern-format World Cup.
Has Argentina won a FIFA World Cup before?
Argentina's victory in Qatar 2022 is their third title overall.
They won two prior World Cup titles, coming in 1978 and 1986, both surrounded by controversy.
The first came on home soil as Mario Kempes scored an extra-time winner against the Netherlands who were upset with the hosts' stalling tactics. In 1986, Diego Maradona led the way, with the famous Hand of God goal seeing them past England in the quarterfinals before downing West Germany 3-2 in the final.
The three titles make Argentina the second most successful South American side at the World Cup, one ahead of Uruguay and behind Brazil's world-best five World Cup championships.
Argentina World Cup history
|Year||Host||Stage Reached||Eliminated by||Top goalscorer|
|1930||Uruguay||Final||Uruguay (4-2)||Guillermo Stabile (8)*|
|1934||Italy||Round of 16||Sweden (3-2)||2 tied w/ 1 goal each|
|1958||Sweden||Group Stage||—||Oreste Corbatta (3)|
|1962||Chile||Group Stage||—||2 tied w/ 1 goal each|
|1966||England||Quarterfinals||England (1-0)||Luis Artime (3)|
|1970||Mexico||Did not qualify||—||—|
|1974||West Germany||2nd Group Stage||—||Rene Houseman (3)|
|1978||Argentina||Won Final||—||Mario Kempes (6)*|
|1982||Spain||2nd Group Stage||—||3 tied w/ 2 goals each|
|1986||Mexico||Won Final||—||Diego Maradona (5)|
|1990||Italy||Final||West Germany (1-0)||Claudio Caniggia (2)|
|1994||United States||Round of 16||Romania (3-2)||Gabriel Batistuta (4)|
|1998||France||Quarterfinals||Netherlands (2-1)||Gabriel Batistuta (5)|
|2002||Japan/South Korea||Group Stage||Sweden (1-1)||2 tied w/ 1 goal each|
|2006||Germany||Quarterfinals||Germany (1-1, 4-2 pens)||2 tied w/ 3 goals each|
|2010||South Africa||Quarterfinals||Germany (4-0)||Gonzalo Higuain (4)|
|2014||Brazil||Final||Netherlands 0-0 (4-2 pens)||Lionel Messi (4)|
|2018||Russia||Round of 16||France (4-3)||Sergio Aguero (2)|
|2022||Qatar||Won Final||France 3-3 (4-2 pens)||Lionel Messi (23, 108), Angel Di Maria (36)|