Argentina captain Lionel Messi said Thursday that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar will “surely” be the last of his career, reported AFP.

“It’s my last World Cup, surely. I feel good physically, I was able to do a very good pre-season this year, which I couldn’t do last year. It was essential to get to where I am, with a good state of mind and a lot of hope,” the 35-year-old told ESPN-Argentina.

Messi made his international debut in 2007 and has since won 164 caps for Argentina. He is yet to win the World Cup title, coming closest when his team reached the final in 2014.

Messi had already once announced his international retirement in 2016 but recalled the decision soon after. He went on to end his long wait for a major trophy when he led Argentina to the Copa America title in 2021. Messi then stole the show as Copa America holders Argentina powered to a 3-0 win against European champions Italy in the Finalissima at Wembley earlier this year.

In the ESPN interview, which took place in Paris where Messi plays for Paris Saint-Germain, he admitted he was nervous about the impending tournament.

“There is anxiety, nerves about the World Cup,” he said. “We can’t wait for it to start.”

Messi’s international debut as a substitute against Hungary in 2005 lasted just two minutes before he was sent off but he quicky established himself in the national team set-up and travelled to Germany for his first World Cup in 2006.

He went on to play in the 2010 edition in South Africa, 2014 in Brazil, where Argentina reached the final, and 2018 in Russia.

The current side, under the management of Lionel Scaloni, have now gone 35 games without defeat and are likely to figure among the pre-tournament favourites for the tournament.

“We have reached a good moment, with a very well-equipped and very strong group, but anything can happen,” said Messi.

“All the games are very difficult. The favourites are not always the ones who end up winning or taking the path that one expected.

“Argentina is always a candidate because of its history and what it means. But we are not the only favourites, there are other teams that are above us.”

Last chance for glory

Argentina get their bid for a third World Cup title, and first since 1986, underway on November 22 against Saudi Arabia in Lusail, before further Group C matches against Mexico and Poland.

Messi only scored once four years ago in Russia as Argentina bowed out with a 4-3 defeat by eventual champions France in the last 16, following a humiliating 3-0 thumping by Croatia in the group stage.

But hopes are high that the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner could bow out from World Cups with glory in the Middle East.

Messi won the best player award as he led Argentina to last year’s Copa America crown – beating arch rivals Brazil in the final – to win their first major tournament title in 28 years. He was involved in most of Argentina’s goalscoring exploits and was player of the tournament.

Qatar will now be the last chance for Messi to finally lift the World Cup.

With inputs from AFP