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World Cup 2022: Messi a step closer to surpassing Maradona for the title of GOAT

Lionel Messi came to Qatar chasing history and a chance to be the GOAT. After defeating Croatia 3-0 in the World Cup semifinals, Messi’s dream is still alive. 

Lionel Messi landed in Doha three weeks ago determined to win the World Cup. He walked off the field at Lusail Stadium outside the Qatari capital on Tuesday with that dream still intact.

Argentina’s 3-0 win against Croatia in the World Cup semifinals, spearheaded by a magical Messi who scored a goal and added an assist. The win landed the Albiceleste in the final on Sunday. They will play the winner of Wednesday’s semifinal clash between Morocco and defending champions France.

While I did not enjoy the post-game antics between Argentine and Dutch players following the fiery quarterfinal match won by the Albicleste on penalties, it did at least show that Messi is a leader and someone who will stand up for his teammates. In other words, he became more like Argentine idol Diego Maradona off the field than anything he’s ever done with a ball.

65 – Lionel Messi has now been fouled 65 times in World Cup matches. Since Opta have this data (from 1966), this is the second most fouls won by any player at the tournament, although 87 behind Diego Maradona’s record (152). Targets. pic.twitter.com/h5Z1uwtKHU

— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 9, 2022

World Cup: Is Lionel Messi better the Diego Maradona?

Against Croatia, Messi willed the team to success. he channeled another Argentine great: Diego Maradona.

Maradona never lambasted his teammates. Instead, he lifted them up. Messi has always been the good guy, too, but seemed to have a bigger affinity for his club, Barcelona and now PSG, than the national team. That all seems changed after this World Cup.

Those who argue Messi is already the GOAT never saw Maradona play or Pele play. Maradona and Pele, whatever order you want to put them in, are already chiseled in stone on the Mount Rushmore of international soccer. Messi, who has lived in Maradona’s shadow, can add his face to that come Sunday.

Maradona led Argentina to the World Cup title in 1986, the last time that nation captured the trophy. For nearly two decades, Messi has been trying to emulate that feat. Each time, he’s fallen short. In 2014, Argentina reached the final, but lost to Germany.

Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have been the best two players of the last two decades. They are gifted athletes who have played on great teams. Neither one, despite their longevity, have lifted the World Cup.

Maradona died two years ago. Even after retiring from the game, he was still the national team’s biggest fan. He would have been shouting the loudest on Tuesday, and cheering for Messi, had he been in attendance at Lusail Stadium.

Maradona and Messi are similar in so many ways on the field. Maradona is the GOAT. Only Pele could compete with him. Messi is a great player. He needs to win this World Cup, however, in order to be considered the GOAT. If not, he will remain a superstar, but not the greatest ever.

This is likely to be Messi’s final World Cup. He’s been chasing history for a very long time. Is he the GOAT? It depends whom you ask. For me and for now, Maradona is the GOAT. Messi can change all that come Sunday.

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