Argentina had a terrible opening to the 2022 World Cup. After Saudi Arabia’s shocking opening defeat, rumors started to circulate.
Will Lionel Messi’s illustrious career come to an end without a World Cup victory?
The statistics stood out. In group play, moving on to the knockout round is nearly impossible after losing the opening match. Argentina would not only make it to the next game but also win the group and continue to dominate.
In what was most likely his final World Cup game, Lionel Messi has now defeated defending champion France in a 3-3 (4-2) penalty kick shootout to claim the title of World Cup champion. Now that Argentina has won its third championship, the early whispers have been replaced by cheers and tears.
Argentina attacked relentlessly and aggressively to start the game against France. The French, who appeared to be in complete control throughout the tournament, struggled to regain the rhythm, cohesion, and energy they had displayed in Qatar.
In the middle of the first half, Argentina’s attack proved successful. The French forward Ousmane Dembélé tripped Argentine forward Angel Di Mara in the box, earning a penalty kick.
Who would take it as clear-cut? Lionel Messi, the most experienced player in men’s World Cup history, approached the penalty spot 12 yards from the French goalkeeper. He was playing in his 26th World Cup game. He controlled it low and to the right with a deep breath and a deliberate strike. 1-0.
With the goal, Messi became the first player to score in each of the four knockout round games of the World Cup in a single competition.
The South Americans still needed to be finished. Argentina was able to penetrate the French defense across midfield in the 36th minute. Once more, it was Di Mara who created the opportunities with just two accurate passes. After charging into the box, he lifted a shot over the diving Hugo Lloris of France. 2-0.
Di Mara walked back to the Argentina side of the field after scoring, wiping away her tears.
Incoherent-looking was France. The first-half substitution of Dembélé, whose foul resulted in the game’s opening goal, and Olivier Giroud, the all-time leading scorer for France, was an unthinkable move by coach Didier Deschamps.
France, the defending champion, appeared startled at halftime. The first 45 minutes of the game were wasted mainly on Kylian Mbappé, the French star.
Mbappé, then 19 years old, shone at the 2018 World Cup. There were numerous comparisons to Pelé, another adolescent with a distinguished soccer background. Since Pelé scored in the 1958 World Cup final, Mbappé became the first teenager to do so in 2018. Mbappé continued where he left off at the 2022 competition.
With his 12 total goals, he broke Pelé’s previous World Cup record for a player under 24. Mbappé tied Messi for the most goals overall going into the championship game with eight goals he scored in Qatar. Mbappé had been largely silenced against Argentina. which is significant. In the 71st minute, he fired his first known shot.
Most of the 89,000 spectators in Lusail Stadium, who wore the team’s recognizable white and sky blue uniform, were supporters of Argentina. It was electrifying. They applauded each touch, pass, and goal.
However, Mbappé cut the Argentina lead in half with a penalty shot in the 80th minute to make the score 2-1. France was kept quiet the entire game. Quiet. Unsure. But as France started to play, the game’s energy changed.
Astonishingly, Mbappé repeated the feat 93 seconds later. He evened the score with a powerful right-footed shot that went past Emiliano Martnez, the Argentinean goalkeeper. 2-2.
Everyone anticipated seeing the French team in the championship, and here they are. Finally, it was Messi versus. Mbappé. The 23-year-old continues to add to his already impressive soccer resume against the 35-year-old, one of the best players ever to perform.
The teams played nine more minutes of regulation time and eight more in stoppage time. Thirty minutes of extra time were required because neither team could score.
It had previously been Argentina. It lost the 2014 World Cup final to Germany, which scored in extra time to win 1-0.
This time, it was Argentina who would score in the extra period. And who was ever in doubt as to who would achieve? Lionel Messi, of course. Messi kicked the ball as it darted in front of the French goal. Within minute 109. He scored again that night. 3-2.
That result would not stand. France attempted a second penalty kick after a handling call inside the Argentine box, and Mbappé would be the obvious choice. Naturally, he scored in the 118th minute. The young French star scored a hat trick. 3-3.
In the final moments, both sides fought. The best World Cup final in history would likely be decided by a penalty kick shootout, though.
Argentina started on top. The Argentina goalkeeper denied Kingsley Coman of France’s attempt after Mbappé and Messi converted their respective penalty kicks. The next time, Aurélien Tchouaméni missed the target. Gonzalo Montiel of Argentina, who converted the go-ahead penalty kick, was the final man standing. Tears, hugs, and smiles for Messi and all of Argentina.
Diego Maradona, whose shadow has cast a long shadow over Messi, led Argentina to its last World Cup victory in 1986.
Argentina is entitled to the 2022 World Cup. It’s the third championship for Argentina and Lionel Messi. His first opportunity to claim the title of World Cup champion. It was his last opportunity. He now has a complete résumé.