2018 could be my last World Cup – Messi

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Lionel Messi has suggested he won’t get another chance if Argentina fail to win the World Cup in Russia this summer, ESPN reports.

The Barcelona forward lost in three straight finals – two Copa Americas and the 2014 World Cup –in a three-year span and has not won a trophy with the senior team.

Messi’s hat trick at Ecuador in the Albiceleste’s 3-1 win in their final qualifier in October earned his country a spot in this summer’s World Cup and again underlined the player’s importance to his national side.

Messi and his teammates have had a strained relationship with the Argentine media, feeling unfairly criticised, and he told La Cornisa TV,  “It’s just the feeling that this group of players has. It seems that having reached three straight finals didn’t mean anything. Obviously, we depend on results and unfortunately, we reached three finals and we didn’t win them.

“A lot was said about us. The criticisms hurt back then. But the demand is going to be there for this group to get it done. We think that if we don’t do it, we are going to get a lot more (criticism)  and we are not going to have another possibility.”

The pressure led Messi to quit, albeit briefly, from international duty in 2016, after Argentina lost to Chile in the Copa America final, his third straight with the national team.

“I’ve cried many times for lost finals,” the five-time Ballon d’Or winner said. “I cried for not being able to fulfill the dream of our nation. My desire is the same as every Argentine, which is to lift the World Cup.”

Messi said the 2014 World Cup final defeat to Germany is still an open wound.

“We know how challenging it is to win a World Cup,” the 30-year-old said. “To win a World Cup is very difficult and we came so close to achieving that dream. Football is full of surprises, not always the best team wins. I’ve learned to accept that. I felt we deserved the 2014 World Cup. It was a tough blow. To have been so close, it was painful.”

Messi is looking ahead to Russia with optimism, however. In their group, the Albiceleste will face Croatia, Iceland and Nigeria.