Which player has the record for most World Cup appearances?

As Argentina took to the field against Croatia in the semi-final of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, Lionel Messi matched Lothar Matthaus’ World Cup record of 25 appearances. And after the Albiceleste strolled past their European opponents, the chance to create history was close.

Messi has World Cup most appearances

Sunday 18 December rolled around and there was no surprise that Leo Messi was named in the starting XI against France, and with that he became the footballer with the most games played in the history of the World Cup. The Argentina captain’s 26 appearances, ends Matthäus’s record that stood since 1998. In summary, Messi played three games in Germany 2006, five in South Africa 2010, seven in Brazil 2014, four in Russia 2018 and seven in Qatar 2022.

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Argentina’s forward #10 Lionel Messi during the Qatar 2022 World Cup final.JEWEL SAMADGetty

It took the Albiceleste legend five World Cups (2006, 2010, 2014, 2018 and 2022) to surpass the record held by Matthäus, who also participated in five World Cups (1982, 1986, 1990, 1994 and 1998). The German was champion in 1990 and runner-up in 1982 and 1986. He played two games in Spain ‘82, seven in Mexico ‘86, seven in Italy ‘90, five in the United States ‘94 and four in France ‘98.

Next on the list are Miroslav Klose (Germany), with 24 caps; Paolo Maldini (Italy), with 23; Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), with 22; Diego Maradona (Argentina), Uwe Seeler (Germany) and Wladislaw Zmuda (Poland), with 21; and Cafú (Brazil), Philipp Lahm (Germany), Grzegorz Lato (Poland), Javier Mascherano (Argentina ) and Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany), with 20.

More Messi milestones

This is not the only record that Messi has broken in Qatar. He is the youngest footballer to participate in five World Cups, the first to give assists in five separate World Cups and the first Argentine to score in four (2006, 2014, 2018 and 2022). In three editions Diego Maradona (1982, 1986 and 1994) and Gabriel Batistuta (1994, 1998 and 2002) did it.

Fans in Buenos Aires watch Argentina v France

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Fans in Buenos Aires watch Argentina v FranceMARTIN VILLARREUTERS

World Cup final add ons

The first half of the 2022 final couldn’t have started better for the Argentine. After Di Maria won a penalty, up stepped the number 10 to stroke home his twelfth World Cup goal, having already surpassed, with eleven goals, Batistuta’s record as the top Argentine scorer in the World Cups. That penalty also made him the first man ever to score in all knockout rounds of a single World Cup.

Messi levels with Pelé

Messi is still far from the 16 goals scored by German Miroslav Klose, the top scorer in World Cup history. In second position is Ronaldo (Brazil), with 15; followed by Gerd Müller (Germany), with 14; Just Fontaine (France), with 13. But with 12, Messi has drawn level with Brazilian legend Pelé.

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