It’s been almost a year since Argentina defeated France in a thriller to win their third World Cup title at the Lusail Stadium in Doha, Qatar. Kylian Mbappe scored a hat-trick for France in the final, but the Lionel Messi side prevailed 4-2 on the penalties against the two-time champions.
Messi and Argentina’s campaign kicked off with a 1-2 defeat to Saudi Arabia, but the Albiceleste turned things around quickly, winning their next two games against Poland and Mexico to secure a safe passage into the Round of 16.
Argentina edged out Australia in pre-quarterfinals with a 2-1, setting up a clash with Netherlands in the Last 8.
The match against Netherlands was a cagey affair as Argentina almost squandered a two-goal lead before eventually prevailing 4-3 on penalties.
After Nahuel Molina and Messi had given Argentina a 2-0 lead, second-half substitute Wout Weghorst came off the bench to score twice, sparking wild celebrations in the Dutch camp.
The pre-match vibe was also fiesty especially after Netherlands manager Louis Van Gaal criticised Messi, who then went on to celebrate his goal in front of the Dutch camp.
After putting Argentina 2-0 up, Messi came rushing to the Dutch dugout and did an iconic celebration, where he covered his ears with his hands.
During a recent chat, Messi has revealed the reason behind his celebration, and how he instantly regretted his gesture.
“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 or win it.’ These things usually happen,” Messi told Star+ Argentina during an exclusive interview.
“It bothers me when people talk off the field and disrespect the opponent. Before the game, I didn’t try to make Van Gaal angry, I didn’t disrespect him, I never did that, and I don’t like them to do that to me. I think Van Gaal did it with intention and their goalkeeper also spoke before the match. I don’t like these things at all. I’ve never been like this. On the field a million things can happen but it has to stay on the field,” he added.
Players from both sides were involved in an ugly spat and the referee dished out 14 yellow cards, while Netherlands right back Denzel Dumfries was sent off late in extra-time.
After Argentina won the World Cup, Louis van Gaal, who was the manager of Netherlands during the tournament, had claimed that Messi’s team’s win was “premeditated”.
In the sem-finals, Argentina defeated Croatia 3-0 to take revenge of their exact defeat to the Balkans during the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
In the final, Argentina denied France from retaining their crown.