World Cup 2022: Lionel Messi offers to give up man of the match award after inspiring Argentina to final

Argentina captain Lionel Messi celebrates after Argentina beat Croatia 3-0 in the semi-finals of the FIFA World Cup 2022 at Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar on 13 December, 2022.
(Image credit: Juan Mabromata/AFP via Getty Images)

Lionel Messi produced another inspirational performance on Tuesday night to help Argentina (opens in new tab) reach their sixth World Cup (opens in new tab) final, playing a part in two goals as the Albiceleste defeated Croatia 3-0 – but he wasn't sure he necessarily deserved the man of the match award...

The seven-time Ballon d'Or winner put his country ahead from the spot (it was the third penalty he's scored at Qatar 2022), then set up Julian Alvarez's second of two goals after a trademark dribble (opens in new tab).

After being handed the prize – his fourth of the tournament – by former international colleague Sergio Aguero, Messi was asked whether he'd give it to any of his teammates on the night.

And perhaps he was just being diplomatic (who knows?), but the 35-year-old – who put his country in front from the spot – couldn't have been much more effusive in his praise for Alvarez. He said (opens in new tab):

"Every player did very well, but if I had to choose I would give this award to Julian: he had an extraordinary game."

Messi is now tied with Kylian Mbappe – who he should meet in the final if France (opens in new tab) beat Morocco (opens in new tab) in tonight's other semi – as tournament top scorer on five goals.

Alvarez is only goal behind, though; the Manchester City (opens in new tab) striker has enjoyed a fine first World Cup, also finding the net against Poland in the group stage and Australia in the last 16.

Victory for Argentina in Sunday's final will see them lift the trophy for the third time; Messi is looking to get his hands on football's ultimate prize for the first time at what is expected to be his last World Cup.

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Tom Hancock started freelancing for FourFourTwo in April 2019 and has also written for The Analyst and When Saturday Comes, among others. He supports Wycombe Wanderers and has a soft spot for Wealdstone. A self-confessed statto, he has been known to watch football with a spreadsheet (or several) open...