Paris: The "wounds" of 2014 will probably never heal, concedes Lionel Messi but the Argentine superstar is hopeful that 2018 will bring with it the World Cup that football "owes" him. Counted among the greatest of the game, the 30-year-old Barcelona icon has still not forgotten the heart-breaking 0-1 loss to Germany in the 2014 World Cup final.
"I don't know if they are ever going to heal. We are just going to have to live with it. It is going to be there forever. 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 said in an interview to 'FIFA.com'.
Argentina went on to lose a couple of Copa America finals to Chile after that, fuelling the criticism that Messi has under-achieved with the national team. But the touch artist silenced his critics by single-handedly guiding an under-performing Argentina to the 2018 World Cup main draw.
After the Albicelestes won a do-or-die clash against Ecuador, riding on a magnificent Messi hat-trick, to make the cut for Russia 2018, coach Jorge Sampaoli went on to say that football owed him a World Cup. Reminded of that statement, Messi came up with a cheeky response.
"Yes, I did hear it, and he said it to me too. I hope football does end up paying me!" he said. Speaking about Argentina's erratic qualifying campaign, Messi shudders to think what he would have done, had the team not qualified.
"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. 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," he said.
Messi said the Argentine team will be a changed outfit when it lands in Russia come June. "We’ve had four competitive matches with a new coach, 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," he said.
Argentina are placed in Group D alongside Iceland, Nigeria and Croatia. They will open their campaign for the June 15 to July 14 event against Iceland on June 16 in Moscow.