Argentina captain and FC Barcelona forward Lionel Messi on Sunday announced his intention to retire from international football, following his side’s agonizing defeat to Chile in the Copa America final. Messi, who last week overtook Gabriel Batistuta as his country’s all-time top goal-scorer, had a match to forget, missing a penalty in the shoot-out that decided the final. Messi represented Argentina 112 times before calling it quits, having made his senior debut against Hungary in a 2005 friendly.
Messi’s retirement comes just three days after he turned 29 (24 June).
Here are five of his best moments for La Albiceleste (in descending order)
Free-kick vs United States, 2016
Just last week, Messi scored what was an unstoppable free-kick from 25-27 yards in his team’s 4-0 drubbing of the United States in the Copa America semi-final. That goal, described by many as simply “outrageous” (in a good way, of course), pipped him over Batistuta for the Argentine goal-scoring record. Quite simply, the Messi moment at the Copa America.
First hat-trick vs Switzerland, 2012
It took Messi seven years to register his first hat-trick for Argentina. It came against Switzerland in February 2012, when he starred in what was a masterly showing in the first half. He struck his first goal in the 19th minute, while the other two goals came late—in the 87th minute and the 93rd minute of the game. Argentina won the friendly 3-1.
2014 World Cup
Messi, who led Argentina since the 2010 World Cup, played an influential part in his country’s journey to the final at the Maracana. Argentina, though lost again, this time to German Mario Gotze’s 113rd minute goal. Messi scored in each of Argentina’s group matches—against Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran and Nigeria. While he didn’t exactly set the knockout stages alight, he did lay the pass for teammate Angel di Maria’s winner against Switzerland in the round of 16s deep into extra-time.
2007 Copa America
While he’d scored in the 2006 World Cup against Serbia and Montenegro, it was the 2007 edition of the Copa America in Venezuela that he’d announced his big-time arrival. Messi, then 20, scored two and assisted one goal in the six matches of the tournament, where Argentina reached the final before eventually losing out to Brazil. The memorable Messi moment from that tournament, still discussed is the delightful lob against Mexico, which clinched the match for the Argentines.
2008 Beijing Olympics
The only major tournament (if it can be counted as one) that Messi has won with the Argentine national team, besides the Fifa World Youth Championships. Messi was part of the Under-23 team that clinched its second gold medal in Olympic history. The squad also included his current team-mates like Angel di Maria, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Sergio Aguero among others. Messi scored twice in the tournament—against Ivory Coast in the group stage and The Netherlands in the quarter-finals.