Thiago Almada makes World Cup debut: "I'm the happiest kid"

Thiago Almada Arg World Cup

Thiago Almada will forever be in the history books.

With Argentina closing out a 2-0 win over Poland on Wednesday at the 2022 FIFA World Cup, head coach Lionel Scaloni brought on his last substitute. He was looking to give Brighton & Hove Albion midfielder Alexis Mac Allister some rest, with Group C’s top spot within grasp.

Waiting on the touchline was Almada, who stepped onto the Stadium 974 pitch in Doha, Qatar. Via that 84th-minute change, ATLUTD’s rising star became the first MLS player to feature for La Albiceleste at a World Cup.

“I'm very happy for my World Cup debut,” Almada said postgame. “I'm the happiest kid in the world, like any other little child who dreams while having a ball in his feet.”

The 21-year-old midfielder originally wasn’t named to Argentina’s squad, which is led by Inter Miami CF-linked superstar Lionel Messi. But then injuries arose and Almada was brought as an injury replacement, changing his fortune mere days before the tournament began.

This is the cherry on top of Almada’s 2022 MLS Newcomer of the Year campaign. After arriving on a reported league-record $16 million transfer from Velez Sarsfield, he led Atlanta in goal contributions (18), via six goals and 12 assists.

Now, Almada is representing his country on the world’s biggest stage. He’s dreaming big, too, as Argentina have roared back from a shocking 2-1 defeat against Saudi Arabia to begin their World Cup.

“We talked internally that when we get hit hard we have to react, and thankfully we got up quick,” Almada said. “Now we need to keep going."

Argentina will be heavy favorites in the Round of 16, facing Group D runner-up Australia on Saturday (2 pm ET | FOX, Telemundo). They’re a top-tier favorite in Qatar, hoping to build off two World Cup titles (last in 1986) and three runner-up finishes (last in 2014).