Lionel Messi advances to World Cup final, will break all-time record on Sunday
Of course, he did it. Lionel Messi led Argentina to their second World Cup final in eight years after stomping Croatia 3-0 in the semifinals.
The PSG forward and his Argentine comrades had no trouble in dealing with a subpar Croatian side that brought no threat at all to the South American chances of reaching the final.
Argentina beat Croatia on the scoreboard by three goals with Messi opening the game in the 34th from the penalty spot. Julian Alvarez added an all-timer in the 39th and bagged another one in the 69th minute thanks to an incredible play by Messi on the right wing.
This game marked Messi's 171st international app. Messi was already the leading Argentine on that front (Javier Mascherano is second with a distant 147 caps), but it meant something more important for La Pulga in the context of the World Cup.
Lionel Messi equaled Lothar Matthaus' record for most appearances in the FIFA World Cup. By extension, Messi will become the all-time leader in World Cup games played when the ball gets rolling next Sunday.
Lionel Messi will appear in an all-time, world-record 26th World Cup game next Sunday when the final gets played in Qatar
As ridiculous as it sounds, Messi entered the 2022 World Cup outside of the top 10 players in terms of games played in the competition with "only" 19 apps.
Messi has now appeared in three group games along with the quarter-finals and semi-finals matchups against Netherlands and Croatia, and he will do once more next Sunday facing either France or Morocco to appear in his (world-record-setting) 26th overall World Cup game.
That is, to this day and simply put, unheard of.
Messi (18) has already surpassed Rafa Marquez (his teammate in Barcelona a few years ago; 17) with the most World Cup appearances donning the captain's armband.
No active player other than Messi has already appeared in 20 World Cup games while still at the reach of adding to his game-playing tally in the future, with Messi having one more match booked for Sunday.
Messi debuted in a World Cup back in 2006 and has appeared in five different World Cups to this day, reaching the final in the 2014 edition.
Earlier this year, Messi announced this would be his last World Cup, though, so he will enter Sunday's matchup against France/Morocco more motivated than ever knowing he's just 90 minutes away from lifting the only cup that has escaped his trophy case.