"I regretted it" - Lionel Messi brands himself an 'idiot' over incident during 2022 FIFA World Cup with Argentina
Inter Miami superstar Lionel Messi recently branded himself an idiot for his choice of celebration against the Netherlands in the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Argentina faced off against the Netherlands in the World Cup quarter-finals on December 10, 2022. The build-up to the clash was fairly heated as Dutch boss Louis van Gaal aimed digs at Messi regarding his contribution off the ball and his approach to matches (as per Daily Mirror).
The Albiceleste got off to a good start, taking the lead in the 35th minute via Nahuel Molina's goal. Lionel Messi doubled his nation's advantage with a 73rd-minute penalty. While celebrating, he put his hands to his ears, as a response to Van Gaal's previous comments.
The eight-time Ballon d'Or winner revealed that he immediately regretted doing so in fear that the Netherlands would get back into the game. He told ESPN:
"I came up with the 'Topo Gigio' [named in honor of a cartoon character, a goal celebration in which a player puts his hands to his ears as a sign of defying someone] right there and I automatically regretted it. As soon as I did it I thought: 'What an idiot. They can still tie it.' These things usually happen."
That is exactly what happened as Wout Weghorst netted in the 83rd minute as well as 11 minutes into stoppage time to level the scores. Fortunately, Argentina won 4-3 in the penalty shootout to advance to the semi-finals.
Lionel Messi and Co. went on to win the 2022 FIFA World Cup, narrowly defeating France in a thrilling final. The 36-year-old won the Golden Ball for his efforts, scoring seven goals in the competition.
"Now I want to be there more than ever" - Lionel Messi makes 2026 FIFA World Cup admission
Lionel Messi recently admitted that he wants to feature in the 2026 FIFA World Cup but insisted his priority is to help Argentina defend the Copa America in 2024 first.
The Barcelona legend guided Argentina to Copa America glory in 2021, securing his first-ever international trophy after defeating Brazil in the final. He followed this up with the 2022 Finalissima and the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Messi spoke to ESPN and said (via GOAL):
"Today the only thing I think about is getting to the Copa America well and being able to compete in it. Fighting it again like we always did, trying to be champions."
"Then time will tell if I'm there [at the World Cup] or not. I'm going to arrive at an age [39 years old] that I normally wouldn't be able to play in the World Cup. I said that I don't think I'm going to be there. It seemed that after the World Cup I was retiring and quite the opposite."
"Now I want to be there more than ever. [But] I'm not thinking about the World Cup and I'm not saying 100 percent that I won't be there because anything can happen. Given my age, the most normal thing is that I won't be there."
"Then we'll see to what extent. Maybe we do well in the Copa America and it happens. everything so that we continue. Maybe not. Being realistic it is difficult."
Lionel Messi currently has a long off-season ahead of him, having missed out on the MLS playoffs with Inter Miami. The new season is set to commence in February 2024 while the next international break will be in March.