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Shay Given Wants "Fairytale" Messi Ending At World Cup

Shay Given Wants "Fairytale" Messi Ending At World Cup
Eoin Harrington
By Eoin Harrington
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Looking through the list of football's greatest names, and comparing that with World Cup winners, there are a few down through history who have missed out on football's greatest prize - including the great Lionel Messi.

Johann Cruyff stands out from the 1970s as one of the finest players ever to grace the game, without a medal to his name. Many an English player down through the years has missed out on the World Cup, while even further back you will find the likes of Ferenc Puskas and Alfredo di Stefano without any international trophies to their name.

The two greats of the modern age, Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, are also both currently on that list. Arguably the two greatest footballers of all time, both will surely line out at a World Cup for the final time this winter in Qatar, 16 years after their first appearance in 2006.

Shay Given, for one, thinks a World Cup medal for Messi would be the perfect "fairytale" ending to the 2022 World Cup.

Shay Given on Lionel Messi

Shay Given spoke to Balls at the launch of RTÉ Sport's coverage of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. RTÉ will broadcast almost 200 hours of football across the month of football in Qatar, with all 64 games shown live.

Their punditry and commentary team will include Shay Given, along with Áine O'Gorman, Richie Sadlier, Liam Brady, Didi Hamann, Damien Duff, Ray Houghton, Ronnie Whelan, and Kevin Doyle, among other faces from Irish football.

Coverage will also include comedy from Darren Conway and Joe McGucken, and will span across TV, radio, and social media.


RTÉ World Cup coverage

Tony O'Donoghue, Shay Given, Aine O'Gorman, and Richie Sadlier at the launch of RTÉ's World Cup coverage. Students from Miss Ali’s Stage School in Dundrum (Saoirse O’ Connor - USA flag, Evie Rose - Wales flag, AJ Keating – Brazil flag and Denis Zamfiroiu- Senegal flag) helped to launch the event in House in Dublin. (Photo: Naoise Culhane/RTÉ)

When asked about who he would pick as favourites for the World Cup, Shay Given mentioned the big hitters of Brazil and Argentina, before detailing why he would like to see Argentina come out on top.


Given acknowledged the strange relationship Messi has had with Argentinean fans, who took a long time to warm to him in the same manner in which they did with Diego Maradona. He did say, however, that bringing a third World Cup to the country would surely go a long way to endearing him forever in the hearts of his home country.

Richie [Sadlier] mentioned the fairytale ending of Messi - that would just be unbelievable. It doesn't always happen in sport, fairytales - we know!

We know that Maradona is renowned in Argentina for winning the World Cup with the same country - if Messi could get his hands on it, it would be fairytale stuff.

That's probably because of the World Cup [that Argentineans prefer Maradona]. Messi, for me...you talk about Pele, Maradona, of course Cristiano Ronaldo - for me, Messi is the best player to ever grace the planet.

If he doesn't win the World Cup, that won't change my mind but I think for the Argentina fans, if he can do that, it will elevate him above Maradona, because Maradona's still such a highly thought of figure in that country.

Lionel Messi has reached a World Cup final before, narrowly losing out in extra-time to Germany in the 2014 decider in Brazil. If he cannot finish off his trophy cabinet with the World Cup in 2022, that will go down as one of sport's great "what if" moments, where one of football's greats could have added the missing piece to a glittering career.


Lionel Messi 2014 World Cup

Lionel Messi came tantalisingly close to winning the World Cup in the 2014 final (Photo: Shutterstock)

The names being bandied about as "contenders" for this most open of World Cups are Messi's Argentina, Neymar's Brazil, and Kylian Mbappé's France - meaning things will surely end well for Paris Saint-Germain, one way or another.


Shay Given, however, thinks that Belgium have gone under the radar, especially given their #2 ranking in the world, and their performance at the last World Cup in Russia.

I mentioned Belgium already. They would probably be an underdog at the minute - I was looking at the odds this morning, you've got Brazil, Argentina, France - no mention, really, of Belgium. I'm not saying they will win it but if De Bruyne and Lukaku hit form...Hazard hasn't struck the world alight at Real Madrid

But some of those players - especially de Bruyne, I watch a lot of City games, he is world class. This guy deserves to be on this stage, he is some player.

Courtois in goals - they have the nucleus of a team that could do something. They got close with third [in 2018], their best finish in a tournament.

Obviously the standard ones would be Brazil and Argentina.

The biggest challenge of this World Cup will be the condensed time frame, and its placement in the middle of the traditional European footballing calendar.

Shay Given made the point at RTÉ's launch that this could afford opportunities to players who may not otherwise have gotten the chance to star at the tournament:

There's always a story - there's always injuries or suspensions or players who maybe have the mindset to get into the squad but might only be a bit part player. Sometimes they have the biggest tournaments - stuff happens in the tournament first game and suddenly they're starting, and they're a hero in their country, it just seems to fall into place.

On the back of the World Cup, there's a January transfer window. Players will be queuing up thinking 'there's a window for me, if I can perform well, then I'm literally in the shop window.'

It's a big opportunity for a lot of players.

We'd be surprised if we could find many football fans who would disagree with Shay Given's sentiment about Lionel Messi. To see him lift the World Cup trophy in Doha on December 18 would truly be a special moment in the history of the sport, and would complete what has been one of the greatest careers in footballing history.

SEE ALSO: Aine O'Gorman Questions Southgate And England's Ability To Adapt

Gareth Southgate England World Cup


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