There can be no arguments now. There should not be a debate now.
In the most dramatic, nerve-wracking fashion imaginable, Lionel Messi finally lifted the World Cup and cemented his place in the pantheon of footballing greats alongside Diego Maradona and Pele.
The final was as good as football gets. A game for the ages with a fairytale ending.
Messi and Kylian Mbappe, two of the game’s superstars, went toe-to-toe in the greatest World Cup final in history. Football may be a team game, but this was a prize fight between two players who will be remembered as all-time greats.
Mbappe scored a remarkable hat-trick, becoming only the second man in history to do so in a World Cup final, and won the Ballon d’Or, awarded to the tournament’s top scorer, but fell short in his bid to retain the title alone. For France.
At just 23, Mbappe’s stunning performance further cemented his status as the future of the sport. He has now scored four goals in World Cup finals, the most of any player in history, and is tied with Pele on 12 World Cup goals. He has 16 more goals to go than Miroslav Klose, the all-time leading scorer at the World Cup.
But despite the history Mbappe created on a night of intoxicating deluge in Doha, this was Messi’s final. The captain of Argentina was not ready to hand over the torch.
The 35-year-old has shone relentlessly throughout this tournament, playing with steely grit and determination that stemmed from an innate belief that this trophy was his destiny, a glorious World Cup farewell written in the stars.
After Gonzalo Montiel scored the winning penalty, Messi dropped to his knees and buried his face in his hands. The moment he always had the dream was finally here!
His teammates flocked to him, kneeling to embrace their captain; they wanted to win it for him as well as for themselves.
They stood together and walked over to their fans to join in the celebrations. Around 40,000 Argentine fans traveled to Qatar and cheered loudly throughout the tournament.
The players draped the Argentinian flag around their shoulders and tied it around their waists as they jumped in unison with the wall of white and blue jerseys in the main stand of the Lusail Stadium.
They had to be patient and endured their share of pain after their last World Cup win in 1986, but it was worth the wait.
Messi came to life at the Estadio Lusail within three minutes, picking up the ball in a pocket of space between France’s midfield and defense and instantly slotting a shot into the path of Angel Di Maria.
That led to the first chance of the game. Messi was also involved in the build-up again, exchanging quick passes on the edge of the box, but last-place defending and a winger’s flag prevented Julian Alvarez from getting a clear look.
It’s no secret that winning the World Cup with Argentina has been Messi’s lifelong dream, bordering on obsession.
While there’s no question that at 35, Messi is slowing down his near-superhuman powers that are beginning to wane, this World Cup has still had a few moments of the absurd, magical brilliance that fans are used to seeing. the years.
His goal against Mexico and assists against Holland and Croatia are undoubtedly some of his most memorable for Argentina and helped propel this team to the final, giving the little magician one last chance to win the trophy he craves most.
In the 23rd minute, Messi had the chance to further cement his name in history with another career-defining moment after Ousmane Dembele’s clumsy foul brought down Di Maria in the box.
Messi then stepped on the spot to become the only man to score in a group stage, round of 16, quarter-final, semi-final and one World Cup final, according to Opta. Just when you think there can be no more records for him, Messi finds another one.
He is also the second-oldest player to score in a final and, with his 26th World Cup appearance, no male player has played in as many World Cup matches. His performances also earned him the Golden Boot, the tournament’s best player award.
For all his remarkable, ridiculous abilities, penalties are perhaps the main part of the game that Messi has struggled with over the years, missing a few on huge occasions.
However, it did nothing to dent his confidence as he stepped up and nonchalantly rolled the ball into the corner, sending Hugo Lloris the wrong way.
He also played a part in Argentina’s superb second half, sparking the counter-attack that led to Di Maria’s goal with a superb little flick from a corner to Julián Alvarez.
Messi even joined Argentina’s defensive duties, tracking down and picking the pocket of Randal Kolo Moani, who was brought on by Dider Deschamps in a shock early double substitution before the break.
Even the most ardent, optimistic Argentina fan couldn’t have dreamed of a first half as good and clear as Messi and his teammates.
It seemed impossible that this was the same team that had been stunned by Saudi Arabia in their opening group game; a performance so lacking in character and heart that it made many wonder if Argentina would be knocked out of the group.
But as the tournament progresses, Argentina and Messi have progressed.
With each passing performance, each moment of Messi’s magic, fans began to believe that the script was already written that the boy from Rosario would end his career at the World Cup. . Few, however, could have predicted such a thrilling finale.
As the second half progressed, the Argentina fans in the stadium, and the tens of millions watching around the world, would be increasingly convinced that this would indeed be a routine victory, the culmination of a lifetime’s dream.
As brilliant as Argentina were, however, France were just as disappointing. According to Opta, it was the first time since 1966 that a team had failed to score in the first half of a final when statistics began.
Fans in Argentina choke journalist while celebrating World Cup victory
It was a historically poor performance by France and Mbappe. Until it wasn’t, that is.
Within 90 incredible seconds, France were 2-0 down to level the game and in perhaps the most predictable twist ever, it was Mbappe who struck twice.
The first was a low penalty which was drilled to nestle into the bottom corner despite the hand of Amy Martinez, while the second ended with a stunning strike from Marcus Thuram’s return pass.
It was a cruel twist of fate for Messi as he was responsible for the miss that led to France’s equaliser. After dragging his team to the brink of immortality, Messi’s mistake proved that he is indeed mortal.
However, there was more to come.
Messi got his moment, his second goal, scored by Lloris after Lautaro Martinez’s shot. it was Messi’s 98th goal for Argentina and arguably his greatest yet.
But still France, and more specifically, Mbappe, did not succeed.
The Paris Saint-Germain striker rose to his feet after Montiel blocked his hand and buried his second shot to send this rather remarkable final to the penalty spot.
It was fitting that both Messi and Mbappe scored their penalties after one of the best duels this sport has seen, but more heroics from Martinez in the Argentina goal ensured Messi lifted the trophy.
Ever since he was old enough to kick a ball, Messi’s biggest wish was to win the World Cup with Argentina. It was never going to be straightforward, but through sheer force of will, he finally made his life’s dream come true.