Argentina, inspired by Lionel Messi, claim World Cup title after beating France in sensational final


Lionel Messi’s wait for World Cup glory is finally over after Argentina beat France in a dramatic penalty shootout on Sunday.

It was a final for the ages, with momentum swinging back and forth throughout a thrilling 120 minutes before Gonzalo Montiel netted the winning penalty after the game ended 3-3 after extra time.

Messi, playing in his fifth and final World Cup, scored twice but France’s Kylian Mbappé scored a stunning hat-trick – the first in a final since 1966 – as the two superstars battled brilliantly over the most great scene of all.

Messi’s penalty and Angel di Maria’s first-half goal appeared to have settled the tie in regular time, but Mbappé scored two late goals – one from the penalty spot – in as many minutes to equalize France.

As both teams felt the effects of the scintillating final, Messi appeared to have scored a 108th-minute winner but Mbappé, once again, responded with an equalizer from the spot to take the game to a penalty shootout.

France’s Kingsley Coman had his spot-kick saved by Emiliano Martinez, who was named the tournament’s best goalkeeper, and Aurélien Tchouameni pushed his effort wide before Montiel clinched Argentina’s third World Cup title and a first since 1986.

After winning seven Ballon d’Ors, lifting 38 trophies and playing over 1,000 games during his career, the World Cup was the only title missing from Messi’s collection.

It’s perhaps fitting that the 35-year-old won that elusive title in such a remarkable match.

He has now equaled his hero Diego Maradona, who guided Argentina to the World Cup 36 years ago, and again claimed his title as the greatest player in history.

After all the hype ahead of Sunday’s showdown, it was Argentina who started the better of the two teams, aggressively pressing France and forcing them into mistakes.

Messi looked sharp from the start, picking up pockets of space and launching attacks, while Mbappé didn’t see much of the ball in the early stages.

In the 23rd minute, Di Maria was deemed to have been knocked down in the box by Ousmane Dembele. Once the penalty was awarded, all eyes turned to Messi.

Gonzalo Montiel celebrates Argentina's winning penalty.

Despite the weight of a nation and the eyes of the world on him, the great No. 10 kept his cool and beat Hugo Lloris.

There was a wave of emotion from the thousands of Argentinian supporters who outnumbered their French counterparts inside the Lusail stadium.

The goal saw Messi become the first player to score in the group stage, round of 16, quarter-finals, semi-finals and final of a single World Cup, according to Opta.

After the first match, Argentina only went from strength to strength as France lacked the rhythm. The World Cup final is not the game to get off to a slow start, and France found themselves trailing 2-0 before the break after Di Maria completed a fluid team move that had been started by Messi.

France manager Didier Deschamps wasted no time in turning things around, replacing Olivier Giroud and Dembele before half-time, but that initially made little difference as Argentina continued their dominance in the second period.

But just when it looked like the trophy was headed for Argentina, France were handed a lifeline after Randal Kolo Muani was knocked down in the box and the talisman Mbappé, who was peripheral for much of the game, scored the resulting penalty in the 80th minute.

The momentum suddenly changed as France, out of nowhere, found a burst of energy and Mbappé fired in a sensational equalizer a minute later.

The action continued in extra time, with both teams having chances with Messi poaching on a stray ball to push it over the line. But Mbappé wasn’t finished, and the 23-year-old completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot in front of a stunned stadium.

Kylian Mbappe walks past the trophy after scoring three goals in the final.

Although it wasn’t enough to inspire France to successive World Cup titles, Mbappé’s third goal won him the Golden Shoe – awarded to the tournament’s top scorer, after netting eight goals in the Qatar – and he becomes only the second player, after Geoff Hurst in 1966, to score three times in the final.

The drama continued in the penalty shootout with Messi and Mbappé scoring their tries before Argentina goalkeeper Martinez stepped in to do his part for his country.

As the dust settled on a final like no other, Messi – who was named Player of the Tournament – found himself with the gold trophy he and Argentina worked so hard to win.


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