Emotional Lionel Messi says Diego Maradona is 'pushing from above' after qualifying to 2022 FIFA World Cup SFs

Lionel Messi believes late Argentina legend Diego Maradona has driven the team to go after success at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Messi’s comments came after he led La Albiceleste to the semifinals of the ongoing World Cup. The South American giants beat the Netherlands 4-2 on penalties in the quarterfinals on Friday (December 9) after the match ended 2-2 after extra-time.

Speaking after the fiercely-contested encounter, Lionel Messi said about Maradona’s unseen impact on the squad (via @Argentina on Twitter, translated):

“We are enjoying the moment, just like the people here and in Argentina. Getting into the best four is something spectacular.

“From the beginning we have been saying that Diego is watching us, he is pushing from above.”

Messi and Maradona shared a great relationship prior to the latter’s passing in November 2020. The late legend, a two-time FIFA World Cup winner, even coached the Paris Saint-Germain superstar at the 2010 World Cup. La Albiceleste, however, exited the tournament in the quarterfinals against Germany.

Maradona has largely praised Messi, even calling him “the best player in the world” (via Tribuna). However, he has also criticized La Pulga for his leadership, claiming he “goes to the toilet 20 times before a game” (via ESPN).

There has been mutual respect between the two, however, with Messi often maintaining that Maradona is the “greatest there’s ever been” (via Tribuna).

Lionel Messi has led from the front for Argentina at the 2022 FIFA World Cup

Diego Maradona’s aforementioned criticism of Lionel Messi’s leadership came after Argentina’s Round of 16 exit at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. La Albiceleste suffered a 4-3 defeat to eventual winners France despite leading 2-1 at one point in the second half.

The team endured a tumultuous campaign, winning just one out of four games and barely scraping out of the group stage. Messi looked a shadow of himself, though he ended the tournament with a goal and two assists.

However, four years down the line, he has looked like a man on a mission with a much better supporting cast under Lionel Scaloni. Messi, in what could be his last ever FIFA World Cup, has scored four goals and laid out two assists in five matches to lead Argentina to the semifinals.

He has been their best player in almost every game and stepped up to the plate in their quarterfinal clash against the Netherlands as well. The six-time Ballon d’Or winner assisted Nahuel Molina’s opener before scoring Argentina’s second goal.

While the Dutch staged a tremendous comeback to take it to penalties, Lionel Messi stepped up to take the first spot-kick and converted to give his side an advantage. Scaloni’s men eventually went on to win the shootout 4-2.

Argentina will now face Croatia, who eliminated La Albiceleste‘s arch-rivals Brazil earlier on Friday, in the semifinals of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

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