Scaloni: Argentina will save a 2026 World Cup spot for unparalleled Messi after Qatar triumph

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Lionel Scaloni says there will be a place for Lionel Messi in Argentina’s 2026 World Cup squad if he has a change of heart after he lifted the trophy for the first time in Qatar on Sunday.

Messi scored twice in an incredible final against France, which the Albiceleste won 4-2 on penalties following a thrilling 3-3 draw.

Argentina looked to be cruising to victory after goals from Messi and Angel Di Maria put them two up at the break, but Kylian Mbappe’s late quickfire double forced extra time.

Messi put the Copa America champions back ahead in the additional 30 minutes, only for Mbappe to level once more for his hat-trick and take the game all the way to penalties.

Aurelien Tchouameni and Kingsley Coman failed to convert in the shoot-out, which Gonzalo Montiel ended by slotting in the winning spot-kick to make Argentina world champions for a third time.

Messi stated after the match he would carry on playing at international level, but the 35-year-old confirmed before the tournament started that this would be his last World Cup.

Argentina head coach Scaloni says his captain will be selected in four years’ time if he changes his mind.

“First of all we need to save him a spot for the next World Cup,” Scaloni told reporters. “If he wants to keep playing, he’ll be with us.

“He’s more than entitled to decide if he wants to keep playing for Argentina or not, or what he wants to do with his career.”

Messi was pipped to the Golden Boot due to Mbappe’s hat-trick, having started the match level on five goals.

Argentina’s star man was, however, awarded with the Golden Ball as the best player in the tournament and Scaloni heaped praise on the mercurial forward.

He said: “It’s such a huge pleasure to coach him and his team-mates.

“Everything he transmits to his teams, it’s unparalleled, something I’ve never seen before. He gives so much to his team-mates.”

After throwing away a two-goal lead with less than 10 minutes to play, before again letting France back in during extra time, Scaloni was relieved it was finally mission accomplished for Argentina.

“The match was completely insane,” Scaloni stated. “For me as coach, I know we had a good match.

“We could’ve won in the first 90 [minutes], however it was not possible. I wasn’t lucky enough, but we were great.

“My feelings? I have the best feelings ever. It wasn’t in my plans, I didn’t envisage to be World Cup winners, [but] we are, and what matters is how we achieved this.”

The years leading up to this World Cup triumph have seen Messi take more of a leadership role within the Argentina team, despite having been captain since 2011.

Scaloni revealed Messi had even helped him to calm his nerves, after he took over in 2018 with limited experience.

“After the Brazil match [1-1] in San Juan, a World Cup qualifying match. I called him before he went back to Paris because I thought we were going to face challenging times,” Scaloni said.

“The feelings were so strong and disappointment could be massive, because people are very passionate about our national team, and people could get disappointed.

“[Messi] said it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter, we’ll move on. if things go well, perfect, we have to try at least.

“That gave me so much energy, it was an emotional boost. With his answer, I realised we were doing things right.”



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