Argentinean player Lionel Messi has been preparing for this moment his entire career, knowing that this will likely be his last chance to win the World Cup with Argentina.
For preseason training with Paris Saint-Germain in July, he came a week early, and since then, he has appeared to be a man on a mission, aiming to arrive in Qatar in the best shape possible.
Messi is back to about his best after a difficult first season at PSG in which he struggled to get over the trauma of his departure from Barcelona. This season, Messi has scored or assisted 26 goals in 18 games for his club.
Argentina has been holding its breath in the meantime, hoping the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner avoids an untimely injury.
Messi participated in his first World Cup as a teenager in 2006 and has since amassed a record 164 caps and 90 goals.
While he led Argentina to the World Cup final in 2014, Jorge Sampaoli’s team experienced a crushing defeat to France in the round of 16 thanks to Kylian Mbappe, who is currently Messi’s teammate in Paris.
At the age of 35, Messi still has a remarkable desire to win the World Cup, much less score his first goal in the World Cup’s knockout stages.
Messi cannot succeed on his own if he wants to follow Diego Maradona, who led Argentina to their final World Cup triumph in 1986.
Although he may be the best player on Lionel Scaloni’s team, they seem to be a far more convincing team than they did four years ago in Russia, when they were fortunate merely to get out of their group.
Argentina enters the tournament in Qatar with a 35-game winning streak, which includes their Copa America victory from the previous year, their first major tournament success since 1993.
More survivors from 2018 remain, including Angel Di Maria, who scored the game-winning goal against Brazil in the Copa America final at the Maracana.
As shown in a video of his speech in the locker room before last year’s Copa America final that was released this week, Messi is not just an inspiration to his teammates because of what he does with the ball as skipper.
Messi will have the opportunity to break Lothar Matthaeus’ record of 25 World Cup matches played if Argentina advances to the championship game in Doha.
But to him, winning the trophy is the only thing that matters.
He is probably the greatest player of all time, but it is now or never for him to cap off a magnificent career by capturing the ultimate prize.