Doha, Qatar – The cameras clicked and panned in with Lionel Messi’s every move, as reporters rushed to record their pieces to camera with the Argentinian captain as their backdrop.
About 400 journalists, mostly photographers and videographers, had gathered at Qatar University on Monday to see Argentina train before their semifinal showdown against Croatia on Tuesday evening at the Lusail Stadium.
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The media were mostly from Argentina and Latin America. They had 15 minutes to gather as much footage and photos before security escorted everyone out.
The 35-year-old star said before the tournament that this will be his last World Cup, which has only led to increased attention.
He has won every major club and national team title, except the World Cup. He came close in 2014, but the South Americans lost to Germany in the final.
The “little magician” is set to equal another record tomorrow. It will be his 25th World Cup match, bringing him to level with the great German Lothar Matthaus as the joint record appearance-maker in World Cup history.
If the Albicelestes make it to the final, he will hold the record outright.
On Monday, he was all smiles and showed no signs of feeling pressure or nerves.
The players stepped out onto the floodlight-lit training pitch shortly 5:30pm (14:30 GMT) Doha time.
The players in their dark blue training kit appeared to be in great spirits, with smiles and banter all around with loud laughter every now and again. Argentina has lost one match in their last 41 games.
The players spent most of the 15 minutes doing basic drills, mostly keepy-uppies and crossing, jogging or stretching.
As the journalists were led out, the players gathered at the centre circle of the pitch with the coaching team joining them. Away from the gaze of the media, it was about to get serious.