Argentina’s Lionel Messi is hoping that football “ends up paying” the debt it owes him with a World Cup victory in 2018, after losing three straight finals with Argentina in a three-year span.
Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli said that football “owes Messi a World Cup” after Messi’s hat trick at Ecuador in the 3-1 win in their final qualifier.
When asked if he heard Sampaoli’s comments, Messi responded.
“Yes, I did hear it, and he said it to me too. I hope football does end up paying me!”
Messi reflected on a 2014 World Cup loss that still haunts him.
“It’s going to be there forever,” Messi said (h/t ESPN FC).
“I don’t know if they’re ever going to heal. We’re just going to have to live with it. The World Cup is a very happy memory and a bitter one too because of how it ended, how it all worked out. But it’s always going to be there.”
Messi is looking forward to another shot at a World Cup championship.
“It was very important because missing out on the World Cup would have been a huge blow, firstly for the squad as a whole and then for me on a personal level,” he said. “I don’t know how I would have taken it. The same goes for the people of Argentina. Failing to make Russia would have been an all-time low for the country.”
Argentina will take on Croatia, Iceland and Nigeria in Group D at the World Cup.
“We’ve had four competitive matches with a new coach [Sampaoli],” Messi said. “But the national team’s going to change now that the Ecuador game’s behind us. It’s going to grow and it’s going to get rid of all the tension and fear it felt because of that match and because of the risk of not achieving our objective. The national team’s going to change a lot.”