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This Thursday marks one decade since a young Leo Messi, just 18 at the time, helped Argentina to victory in the U20 World Cup. By this time, he had already made his first appearances for the FCB first team and was the man on whom his country’s hopes rested at the tournament played in Holland in the summer of 2015.
Argentina finished second in Group D, behind the USA, and then beat Colombia in the second round, Messi scoring the first of the goals in a 2-1 win. In the quarter final, they won 3-1 against a Spain team featuring the likes of Cesc Fàbregas, David Silva and Fernando Llorente, and in the semis they faced old rivals Brazil, who they beat 2-1 with Messi getting one of the two goals.
On 2 July 2005, in Utrecht, Leo Messi led Argentina in the grand final against Nigeria. He got both the goals, both from the penalty spot, to win the title for the team coached by Francisco Ferraro. That made Messi the top scorer in the competition with six goals, and he also won the MVP Golden Ball award, ahead of the Nigerian duo of John Obi Mikel and Taye Taiwo.
Three years later, Leo Messi and Argentina won the gold medal at the Olympic Games in Beijing, once again beating Nigeria in the final. On Saturday in Santiago, Chile, he will be looking to win his first major title at full international level as Argentina take on Paraguay in the final of the Copa America, a tournament the ‘albiceleste’ have not won for 22 years.