LIONEL MESSI is set to take centre-stage yet again as Argentina take on France in today’s World Cup Final.
The little magician has made his name on performing on these big occasions for his country and has produced several memorable moments since his debut in 2005.
SunSport looks back at his greatest moment donning the famous white and blue colours.
Argentina 6-0 Serbia & Montenegro – 2006
Playing in his first World Cup, an 18-year-old Messi would have been keen to make an impression.
In the second group game against Serbia and Montenegro, he started on the bench alongside the likes of Carlos Tevez and his current manager Lionel Scaloni.
He became the youngest player to feature for Argentina at a World Cup when he was subbed on with the side already 3-0.
And Messi quickly made his impact felt, assisting Hernan Crespo’s goal within six minutes and then getting on the scoresheet himself.
It was as good as cameo appearances get and it was quite the introduction to World Cup life for the teen.
Argentina 3-0 Mexico – 2007
It was the Copa America semi-finals and Mexico would have been hopeful of getting one over La albiceleste.
But unfortunately they came up against an in-form and firing Messi who was dynamic and unstoppable in attack.
Aided by fellow trouble-making no.10 Juan Roman Riquelme, Messi scored a stunning chip as Mexico were comprehensively beaten.
Nigeria 2-3 Argentina – 2014
Argentina made it three group wins out of three at the Brazil World Cup as they swept aside Nigeria.
Messi claimed two first-half goals as he latched onto Angel Di Maria‘s shot rebounding off the post to lash home a volley after three minutes.
His second goal was a beauty as he whipped in a majestic free-kick from just over 25 yards out which left baffled Nigerian keeper Vincent Enyeama floundering.
Argentina 2-1 Australia – 2022
Messi’s 1,000 career appearance fell on the day Argentina faced-off against Australia in this year’s World Cup.
Him scoring always felt inevitable, and when the goal came it was a moment of subtle beauty as he started a move which ended with the 35-year-old sweeping an effort into the bottom corner.
But it was his overall performance which left observers stunned as the talisman led from the front and was the brain behind most of Argentina’s attacking moves.
Brazil 3-4 Argentina – 2012
It was only a friendly, granted, but Argentina’s great South American rivals would have still been left with their jaws on the floor by Messi’s showing.
The pair met in New York in June for what should have been a fun if forgettable exhibition game in front of a casual American audience.
But Messi lit the touch paper for a seven-goal thriller, claiming a hat-trick to sweep away Brazil.
As many as 80,000 fans watched on as Messi, even in a friendly, left the crowd in no doubt of his genius
Ecuador 1-3 Argentina – 2017
Jorge Sampaoli took over as boss of the national team in 2017 and he found his country in a bit of trouble.
A poor qualifying campaign for the 2018 World Cup left Argentina genuinely at risk of missing the trip to Russia.
Step forward Messi to drag his nation from the brink – he hit a hat-trick against Ecuador after Argentina fell 1-0 behind to claim qualification.
It was 90 minutes many Argentines will never forget.
Brazil 0-1 Argentina – 2021
Messi’s lack of honours at international level had long been held against him by his critics.
So it was unsurprising to see him break down in tears at the final whistle of 2021’s Copa America final which was won thanks to Angel Di Maria’s goal.
He’s had better performances in an Argentina shirt but he did enough here to inspire his team to victory.
Little did he know that a year-and-a-half on, he might have the chance to claim the biggest trophy of them all in Qatar.
Argentina 3-0 Croatia – 2022
Croatia promised to be tricky World Cup semi-final opponents but Messi and co put them in the shade.
While the Argentine stung a brilliant penalty in the top corner for the first goal, it is a game that will be best remembered for the way he spun Josko Gvardiol inside and out as he assisted Julian Alvarez’s second.
The Croatian defender had making a name for himself on football’s grandest stage but became completely undone by Messi’s flash of genius.
Argentina 2-1 Bosnia & Herzegovina – 2014
Messi scored four goals in the group stages of the 2014 World Cup with his first coming as part of a brilliant performance against Bosnia & Herzegovina.
He assisted Sead Kolasinac’s own goal before scoring an individual strike of brilliance.
Bosnia defenders were left falling in his wake as he dashed towards the box with his trademark close control before a unleashing a brilliant shot which crashed against the inside of the post and went in.
Argentina 3-0 Ecuador – 2021
Messi was involved in all three goals as he helped Lautaro Martinez and Rodrigo De Paul both score.
But his crowning moment came at the end as he drove home a fantastic free-kick from the edge of the box to add some gloss to the score line.
The match very much summed up everything Messi does well – assisting teammates, driving his team up the field, effortlessly creating moments of magic and scoring spectacular goals.
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