Only three other nations have advanced to as many World Cup finals as Argentina, which reached its sixth by beating Croatia, 3-0, in a romp that conferred upon Lionel Messi an ultimate, glorious chance for immortality.
Much like his compatriot Diego Maradona, who in 1990 rebounded after a group-stage defeat to Cameroon to lead Argentina into the final, Messi helped La Albiceleste overcome a shock opening loss to Saudi Arabia, scoring in each knockout-round game. His penalty kick in the 32nd minute opened the scoring against Croatia.
Germany, which exited after group-stage play in Qatar, has played in a record eight finals, while Brazil, the winner of five titles, has appeared in seven. Italy, which failed to qualify for this World Cup, has played in six.
In the only other World Cup final of his transcendent career, Messi lost in 2014 to Germany. Here’s how Argentina has fared in other World Cup finals:
2014: A marvelous goal by Mario Götze just before the match would have gone into a shootout lifted Germany to a 1-0 win. Afterward, Messi sat in the changing room and cried “like a baby,” his friend and teammate Pablo Zabaleta said.
1990: A late penalty kick by Andreas Brehme propelled West Germany to a 1-0 victory. Argentina became the first team not to score in a World Cup final.
1986: Argentina clipped West Germany, 3-2, to conclude a tournament remembered just as much — if not more — for Maradona’s notorious “Hand of God” goal against England in the quarterfinals.
1978: Argentina became the fifth host nation to win a World Cup, scoring twice in extra time to beat the Netherlands, 3-1.
1930: In the inaugural World Cup, Argentina allowed three goals after halftime to lose, 4-2, to Uruguay.