The captain of the Albiceleste detailed how the opening game loss affected his side's charge.

Lionel Messi has explained why Argentina's opening group game defeat to Saudi Arabia was crucial in their charge to reaching the final of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The 35-year-old forward has commended his teammates for their performances after defeating Croatia in Tuesday's semi-final encounter.

Julian Alvarez scored a brace and Lionel Messi registered his fifth goal of the tournament as their side cruised to a 3-0 win at the expense of Zlatko Dalic's men. With the result, Argentina booked their second final appearance in three attempts, and will eye a redemption after losing the trophy to Germany in the 2014 edition.

The journey to the final was far from smooth for the Albiceleste who had their chances of progressing out of Group C compromised as a result of the shock defeat to Saudi Arabia in their first game. Lionel Scaloni's side found themselves on the wrong end of history with an inspirational performance by Herve Renard's charges condemning them to a 2-1 loss inside the Lusail Iconic Stadium.

Needless to say, the Argentines learned their lessons and have since won each of the last five matches played in their run-in to the final. Ahead of Sunday's showpiece with either France or Morocco, Lionel Messi has praised his teammates for showing character and resilience, while acknowledging the impact the defeat to Saudi Arabia had on their quest to reaching another final.

"I would say that the first match was a hard blow for all of us because we had been unbeaten in 36 matches" the Argentine skipper said.

"To start in such a way in a World Cup was a blow, we did not think we would lose to Saudi Arabia. It was an acid test for this whole squad but this squad proved how strong we are.

"We won the other matches. It was very difficult what we did because every match was a final and we were aware if we did not win things would be complicated for us," Messi added.

"This is a mental load because we knew things would be more complicated for us. We managed to win five finals and I hope it will be this way for the final game.

"Internally we were confident that we would make it because we know what we are capable of as a squad. We lost in the first match due to fine details but it helped us to be stronger.

"Let's enjoy this moment. It's great to see the joy in our fans here and in Argentina. We are going to give all what we have in the final but also need to enjoy what we achieved.

"I am enjoying this moment a lot. We feel strong before the game even after a very long last game, the previous one wasn't easy at all. We were tired but the group brought its energy on the pitch to face this game."

In retrospect, Argentina will be eager to end a 36-year wait to lift the World Cup by replicating a feat that has only been achieved by Spain in the history of the competition. La Roja remain the only side to have ever won the trophy after losing their opening group game at the mundial.