We played every game like a final, says Messi - GulfToday

We played every game like a final, says Messi


Lionel Messi celebrates after Argentina scored their third goal against Croatia in World Cup semi-final match at Lusail Satdium in Qatar on Tuesday. Reuters

Mohammad Abdullah, Senior Sports Reporter

Argentina notched up their fifth consecutive victory with Croatia romp in the semi-finals to book their berth in the final of the World Cup on Tuesday.

Lionel Messi described the journey to the final has been very demanding and they had to play all their matches like a knockout one after their loss in the opening match against Saudi Arabia.

“The first match was a hard blow to all of us. At the time we had played the last 36 matches without a single loss. So, to lose the first match in the World Cup to a team nobody thought we could lose to was a strong blow to all of us as a group," Messi said.        

“But this group showed, once again, its strength. We pulled through and won match after match. We've done something amazing because every match after that was like a final." 

“It was mentally exhausting to play every match like that, knowing that a single loss or draw could put us in a complicated situation. So we played 5 finals, and luckily won all of them. Hopefully we'll win the next one too.” Said Messi after the victory over Croatia.

After losing their first match Argentina had to win both their remaining matches to progress to the knockout stages. So technically they had to win all their last five matches to reach the final.

Messi said a loss in the first game helped them realise their potential as team.

“I think among ourselves we were too confident back then, because we knew our potential as a group, and we lost the first match in the fine margins. That helped us grow as a team and advance in the championship.” 

Messi said he is not looking at the stats and enjoying the run in the World Cup.

The Argentina national team has scored 12 goals in total in this tournament.  Five of them came from Messi and in three others, he made assists. Which means he had an impact in 8 out of 12 goals.      

“I have no clue. What I know is how much I'm enjoying this moment. Luckily, I feel good, I feel strong to face every single game. Personally, I've felt really happy throughout the whole tournament, and I still do now.    Luckily, I've managed to help the team get the results we wanted,” he added.

He also informed about the adjustment that Argentina team had to do in training and all other aspects after losing their first game.

“We've made huge sacrifices. In the last game, we played long extra time that was not easy at all.  As for today, we were exhausted, but the team dug in, adding some more extra energy to win. We've played with discipline today. We knew the game would be set up this way,” apprised the Argentine star.

Messi also explained they prepared well for the semi-finals and had come out with a plan.

“We've done a great job. We were aware they'd keep possession of the ball, as they have key players in that sense, making us run. But despite that, we created our usual chances, the game also got out of hand quickly. We prepared for this game in the best way, as usual,” he said.

“He also revealed that there is great understanding among the players and they can anticipate what the next move of the teammate will be.

“Well, this team -- putting aside the strength, we have collectively -- is very smart, and we know how to read key moments of the game, of every game.

“Scaloni stated that we've got a very smart team, that knows when and how to dig in, we know when and how to have the possession of the ball, we know when to press, when to sit back,” he explained.    

“All in all, we understand each game and we prepare the best way long with a professional coaching staff that pays attention to details. They highlight everything you need to be aware of in each game, even if it's minimal. That's hugely helpful for us, when we're on the pitch,” he apprised.

Messi said they knew the Croatia’s style of playing and the coaching staff had helped them prepare that way. They were expecting what transpired on the pitch.

“We never feel lost. We can always tell what our duties are, to clinch victories. As I said earlier, we knew the game would have the shape it had. That's why we didn't feel desperate when we had to run, or when they ran from one flank to another. We knew that was their strength: keeping possession of the ball.

“But we also knew we could make the most of that whenever we recovered the ball. They play in a very unorganized way in the midfield to keep the ball, leaving many space,” he concluded.

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