Messi wins the World Cup and Argentina defeats France on penalties
LUSAIL, Qatar (AFP) – Lionel Messi, dressed in a black Qatari robe over Argentina’s blue and white jersey, ahead of the World Cup, He flipped towards his teammates and lifted the gold cup high into the air.
It was an iconic spectacle that finally – definitively – puts the soccer superstar in the game’s arsenal of greatest players.
Messi’s once-in-a-generation career is complete: he’s the World Cup champion.
In one of the fiercest finals in the tournament’s 92-year history, Argentina won their third World Cup title by defeating France 4-2 on penalties after a 3-3 draw scored by goals from 35-year-old Messi and a. Hat-trick from his heir apparent, France striker Kylian Mbappe.
“It’s crazy to get real that way,” Messi said. “I’m longing for this so much. I knew God would bring me this gift. I had a feeling this (the World Cup) was the best.”
Amidst the chaos, Mbappe did everything he could to emulate Brazil great Pele as champion in the first two World Cups. He even scored the first hat-trick in a final since Geoff Hurst with England in 1966.
That wasn’t enough.
Now there is no discussion. Messi joins Pele – a three-time World Cup champion – and Diego Maradona, the Argentine great to whom Messi was often compared, in an exclusive club of the best footballers of all time.
Who is the greatest? It is a discussion that will go on forever because there can never be a definitive answer. Messi made a good case, however – with a World Cup title on his resume – he certainly surpasses Cristiano Ronaldo as the best player of his generation.
Messi achieved what Maradona did in 1986 and dominated the World Cup for Argentina. He scored seven goals and took responsibility for leading his team out of those dark moments after a shocking 2-1 loss against Saudi Arabia in the group stage.
Playing in the spirit of Maradona, Messi combined his dazzling skills with seldom-seen aggression and led Argentina to the title by becoming the first man in a single edition of the World Cup to score in the group stage and then in each round of the knockout stage. .
The torch will one day pass to Mbappe, but not yet.
“Let’s go, Argentina!” Messi climbed into a microphone on the field in post-match celebrations after playing in Match No. 26 of the World Cup.
Later, he said, “I can’t wait to be in Argentina to witness this madness.”
Messi had caught a glimpse of the 18K gold World Cup trophy when he walked on stage to collect the Ballon d’Or, awarded to the player of the tournament. He even kissed the World Cup and rubbed it again and again.
He nicely got his hands on it about 10 minutes later, after Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani had draped a ceremonial robe over his shoulders. And he enjoyed it, celebrating with his family and teammates who put Argentina on top of world football for the first time since the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. The country’s other title came in 1978 on home soil.
Messi was in form from the start of the final, putting Argentina ahead with a penalty after Ángel Di Maria was brought down and later playing a part in a flowing team movement that saw Di Maria make it 2-0 after 36 minutes.
Mbappe, on the other hand, was faceless until he burst into life with two goals in a 97-second period – one an 80th-minute penalty, the other a volley from inside the area after a quick exchange of passes – to take the ball away. The match went to overtime 2-2.
Messi still had plenty of energy and was on hand for his second goal in the 108th minute, as the France defender cleared the ball after it had crossed the line. Argentina were once again on the brink of the title, but there was still time for another Mbappe penalty, after a handball, to take this exciting match into a penalty shootout.
Mbappe and Messi took the first kicks for their team and scored. Kingsley Coman missed an attempt, which was saved by the Argentine goalkeeper Aimee Martinez and Aurelien Choameni, and then the French national team missed, giving Gonzalo Montiel the opportunity to finish it. He converted the penalty kick to the left and sparked wild celebrations.
“It’s a pleasure to be at the top, the top,” Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni said. “Now this is unique.”
Europe’s run of four consecutive World Cup winners, dating back to 2006, is over. The last champions from South America were Brazil, and it was also in Asia – when Japan and South Korea hosted the tournament in 2002.
In Qatar, Argentina backed their victory over last year’s Copa América, their first major trophy since 1993. It is the high point of Messi’s international career, which is far from over. He said after the match that he would continue to play for the national team.
It was a unique World Cup final – the first to be played in the Arab world.
For FIFA and the Qatari organizers, the final between two major soccer nations and the world’s best players represented an ideal way to cap off a tournament riddled with controversy since the scandal-covered vote in 2010 to award the event to a small Arab emirate.
Years of scrutiny since then has focused on switching dates from the traditional period of June-July to November-December, strong criticism of how migrant workers were treated, and then unease about moving soccer’s biggest event to a nation where same-sex acts exist. illegal.
On Sunday, there was one narrative for most people: Can Messi do it?
He can, although the 23-year-old Mbappe is doing everything he can to deny his PSG teammate. Finishing the tournament as top scorer with eight goals is probably just a crumb of relief.
Messi was a man on mission in the Middle East, determined to erase the memories of his only World Cup final – in 2014 when Argentina lost to Germany 1-0 and Messi missed a great chance in the second half.
That night at the Maracanã stadium, Messi stared at the World Cup gold he had slipped away.
Eight years later, he held it high for the biggest moment of his career like no other.
Steve Douglas is at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80
AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
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