Argentina defeated the reigning champion France on penalties to win the FIFA World Cup for the third time under the leadership of Lionel Messi.
The spiritual overtones were totally appropriate because it was a consecration. In addition to emulating Diego Maradona, the idol of Argentine football, by guiding his country to World Cup victory, Lionel Messi also filled in a gaping hole on his resume by finally capturing the one prize that had escaped him – at the fifth and, presumably, final attempt. He strengthened his case for being regarded as the greatest player of all time in the process. After the most incredible of Kylian Mbappé-inspired France rallies, which saw the defending champions come back from the brink twice, when it was all over and Gonzalo Montiel had converted the game-winning penalty, Messi collapsed to his knees in the centre circle and was surrounded by his teammates. It will be remembered as a timeless classic, possibly the best World Cup championship game ever, and one of the greatest matches in history. It was Messi’s game in so many ways, and it was going to be his game in the end regardless of how France fought.
The outcome was what Qatar had hoped for. The two biggest talents in the sport, Messi and Mbappé, are teammates at the Paris Saint-Germain squad that is owned by Qatar. Even though Messi appeared to be cruising to victory for much of regulation time, it was undoubtedly the final that millions of others wanted as well and how it would deliver. When Messi addressed the penalty with all eyes on him, it was a pure theatrical moment. At the very end, he slightly held back on his run, skipping a beat as he awaited Hugo Lloris’s decision. Where the goalkeeper wasn’t, he swept the ball into the corner. Argentina dominated the first half, dominating with Messi seemingly playing his own game. He wow-ed with his changes of direction or possibly even pulled off a trick by shaking his hips to stop his marker. He fizzed or curled his passes. He even jumped headfirst into difficulties.
Di Mara in a good mood on the left, practising his moves. Di Mara was the creator of the game-changing goal, making a move on Ousmane Dembélé before blasting away from him into the left side of the area. It was Di Mara’s first start of the knockout rounds following injury. Di Mara was clear about what he wanted—some interaction from the pursuing Dembélé—and he got it. Di Mara had raised the bar after 17 minutes thanks to strong play from Rodrigo de Paul and Messi, and the fact that Deschamps made two substitutions in the 41st minute spoke all about France’s troubles. Olivier Giroud became enraged when Mbappé was shifted from the left to the centre, and he was the fall-guy. Dembélé withdrew as well. Marcus Thuram and Randal Kolo Muani subsequently entered the game, making it 2-0. Julián lvarez received a first-time flick from Messi with the outside of his boot, and he instantly sent Alexis Mac Allister on the run. On the opposite side, Di Maria also took off, and Mac Allister’s low crossfield ball was tailored to fit. Di Mara was overcome with his forceful conclusion.
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The world champion courage of France was put to the greatest test. France would nevertheless stir. How would they stir. Deschamps performed alchemy with his substitutions. In place of Griezmann, he substituted Coman, switching to a 4-4-2 formation with Kolo Muani moving up next to Mbappé. Kolo Muani, who defeated Nicolas Otamendi in a one-on-one match and drew the foul, ignited the comeback. The penalty by Mbappé was simply too brilliant for Emiliano Martnez. In the audience, Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, erupted in jubilation. Of all the players, Messi was the one who Coman ejected. France moved the ball from left to right, and when Mbappé and Thuram perfectly timed a pass and pass, the result was a magnificent side-on volley that Martnez couldn’t save. With Mbappé immediately on the attack, the France substitutes nearly scored a winner in normal time as they flooded across the field towards him. But to force extra time, they needed Lloris to deflect a Messi shot from the other end.
These story stakes were being met by the game. After Mbappe gave France the lead in the shootout, many could have predicted that Messi would eventually miss. But it wasn’t going to be a tragedy. It was a tale intended to have everything else instead. Nevertheless, Argentina converted on each of its remaining three penalties, with Montiel scoring the game-winning one to give Argentina the 2022 World Cup. Kinsgley Coman and Aurelien Tchouameni both missed their spot kicks for France. Messi has finished the match. Finally, he has finished his career. Even if he has won everything, this is the most significant. Messi is by himself. Likely the only thing above the albiceleste is the sky.