Messi at 30: The prizes that got away with Argentina

Heartbreaking final defeats in 2014, 2015 and 2016 provide a fitting summary of Lionel Messi's disappointments at international level.

Lionel Messi is the man who appears to have it all, but as he celebrates turning 30 there remains the lingering sense that his career record is lacking something vital.

For all of his remarkable achievements with Barcelona, senior international titles have proven elusive, although he did win the Under-20 World Cup in 2005 and gold at the Olympic Games three years later.

Those not inconsiderable honours aside, Messi has otherwise been met with disappointment and heartache while representing Argentina.

Here, we take a look at the prizes that have eluded Messi's grasp and his chances of setting the record straight in Russia.

 

World Cup final (2014): Argentina 0-1 Germany (aet)

When measured against the all-time greats, one thing has always proven to be easy pickings for Messi's detractors – unlike Pele and compatriot Diego Maradona, he has not won a World Cup.

That argument could have been laid to rest in Brazil, where Messi scored four goals to help Alejandro Sabella's side secure a final clash with Germany.

But Messi was below-par at the Maracana and Argentina fell to a 1-0 extra-time loss courtesy of Mario Gotze's goal, with the Barca star having fired a late free-kick off target.

He was named the player of the tournament in the immediate aftermath, but showed little interest in the award as a far greater prize had just slipped through his fingers.

 

Copa America final (2015): Argentina 0-0 Chile (aet, 1-4 pens)

Messi did not shy away from his spot-kick duties when the 2015 Copa America final went to penalties against hosts Chile.

At the end of a tournament in which Messi scored only once, he stepped up to take Argentina's opening effort, just as he had in the quarter-final win over Colombia.

The result was the same – Messi found the net, but was then reduced to the role of spectator.

And what followed was agonising to watch for the diminutive forward, as misses from Gonzalo Higuain and Ever Banega preceded Alexis Sanchez's decisive strike.

 

Copa America final (2016): Argentina 0-0 Chile (aet, 2-4 pens)

The Copa America Centenario proved a far more productive one for Messi, who hit five goals in Argentina's march to yet another final against Chile.

Gerardo Martino's men scored 18 times in the USA, including a 2-1 triumph over Chile on their way to winning Group D.

But when the final rolled around, the goals dried up, with a 0-0 stalemate ensuring more shoot-out drama.

Messi again went first, but this time blazed well over the crossbar. The crushing blow of the subsequent loss forced him into a decision to retire from the international game, though he later changed his mind.

 

Russia 2018...

An inconsistent CONMEBOL qualifying campaign, hampered by a four-match ban for Messi that was later overturned, has left Argentina in a perilous position in their bid to reach Russia.

Edgardo Bauza paid the price shortly after a 2-0 loss to Bolivia, with Jorge Sampaoli appointed in an attempt to get them over the line in the final four matches.

At present Argentina are only in line for a play-off spot, with Ecuador hot on their heels.

Messi will carry the heavy burden of expectation as Argentina seek to avoid their first qualifying failure since 1970.