Messi drops bombshell statement on controversial WC celebration towards Van Gaal | Football News - Hindustan Times
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'I automatically regretted it': Messi drops bombshell statement on controversial World Cup celebration towards Van Gaal

Dec 03, 2023 11:46 AM IST

Lionel Messi dropped a bombshell statement on his controversial World Cup celebration, directed towards Louis Van Gaal.

Lionel Messi is considered to be among the greatest footballers in history, and summed it up with a victorious campaign at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. It was the only trophy which the Barcelona legend hadn't won, but Qatar was a totally different story.

Lionel Messi directed a controversial celebration towards Louis Van Gaal.(Twitter/Getty)
Lionel Messi directed a controversial celebration towards Louis Van Gaal.(Twitter/Getty)

Argentina began their campaign with a 1-2 defeat against Saudi Arabia, which silenced their fans. They started the tournament as favourites but the defeat dented their hopes. An inspired Lionel Messi started their comeback in the next fixture with a 2-0 win against Mexico. The former PSG star (64') scored a screamer, followed by a sensational first World Cup goal for Enzo Fernandez.

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In their final match, Messi missed a penalty against Poland, but goals from Alexis Mac Allister (46') and Julian Alvarez (67') helped them secure a 2-0 win. They finished on top of their group and faced Australia in the Round of 16. In the Round of 16, Messi once again scored a goal as Argentina won 2-1.

They next faced Netherlands and it turned out to be a heated encounter. The pre-match vibe was also fiesty especially after Dutch manager Louis Van Gaal criticised Messi. In the first-half, a brilliant Messi assist saw Nahuel Molina (35') make it 1-0. Then Argentina converted a penalty in the 73rd-minute to make it 2-0. After his goal, Messi came rushing to the Dutch dugout and did an iconic celebration, where he covered his ears with his hands. But the Dutch had other plans as Wout Weghorst came to the rescue with two late goals in the 83rd-minute and 11th-minute of stoppage time. Both sides failed to score in extra-tie and then the CONMEBOL side won 4-3 in the shootout.

Speaking to ESPN in a recent interview, Messi revealed that he regretted his goal celebration directed at Van Gaal. Before that match, Van Gaal made comments on Messi's playing style and pointed out his contribution off the ball.

"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," he said.

"As soon as I did it I thought: 'What an idiot. They can still tie it.' These things usually happen," he further added.

In the semi-finals, Argentina cruised past Croatia in a match which they won 3-0. Messi scored a 34th-minute, and also registered a world-class assist for Julian Alvarez (39', 69'), who bagged a brace. Then in the final, Argentina faced France in Lusail. Initially, it looked like Argentina were edging towards an easy win after first-half goals from Messi (23') and Angel Di Maria (36'). But Kylian Mbappe had other plans and came to France's rescue, scoring two goals in the 80th and 81st-minute.

With the match entering extra-time, it looked like Argentina found the winner through Messi (108'). But Mbappe (118') equalised and made it 3-3. Emiliano Martinez made a last-gasp save in extra-time to take the match into penalties. In the shootout, Martinez reigned supreme and denied Kingsley Coman, Aurelien Tchouameni as Argentina grabbed a 4-2 victory.

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