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Monday, February 6, 2023
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Monday, February 6, 2023
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    Messi finally wins World Cup; what’s next for Argentina?

    DOHA, QATAR (AP) – Lionel Messi ended his long wait for the World Cup title in one of the most memorable finals in history.

    After fulfilling his life’s ambition, what’s next for him and Argentina?

    EXPECTATION VS PERFORMANCE

    With Messi in the team, it’s always going to be among the favourites. But at the age of 35 and in the final stages of his storied career, the forward looked less equipped than in previous years to lead his country to success.

    And when Saudia Arabia produced one of the biggest upsets in the competition’s 92-year history by beating Argentina 2-1 in the group stage, the potential for an embarrassing early exit looked a real possibility.

    Messi inspired the team to recover from that setback and produced one of the all-time great tournament performances with seven goals and three assists.

    While Argentina’s expectations might not have been at their highest, Messi finally realised the expectations placed on him for the majority of his career by winning the sport’s biggest prize.

    Argentina’s forward Julian Alvarez celebrates scoring with Lionel Messi. PHOTO: AFP

    WHO’S OUT?

    Messi said he will stick around for a while longer, even if another World Cup might be too much to ask.

    Angel di Maria is 34 and earlier this year said he would retire from international football after the tournament in Qatar.

    Nicolas Otamendi is also 34 and unlikely to be involved when Argentina come around to defending its trophy in four years.

    Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni is sure to have won admirers from leading clubs after winning the World Cup at the relatively young age of 44.

    WHO’S NEXT?

    Despite Messi being the inspiration, it was a squad full of young talent who have yet to reach their prime.

    Most notably is 22-year-old striker Julian Alvarez, who scored four goals to become the country’s latest star forward.

    Midfielder Enzo Fernandez, 21, was named the best young player of the tournament.

    Defenders Cristian Romero and Nahuel Molina are 24 and midfielder Alexis Mac Allister is 23. Scaloni has the basis of a team to build around.

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