The 35-year-old maestro from Argentina rubbed his hands together in eager anticipation of his crowning achievement, putting on the traditional Arab robe commonly known as a bisht before finally hoisting the World Cup into the air amid a blaze of flashlights and fireworks.
Messi had accomplished his goal. After what was questionably the most incredible World Cup final in history, a game for the eras that ripped at the emotions and wreaked havoc with beat rates before Argentina’s icon reached its peak. The gap in his glittering collection had been filled, making the set complete.
He now has the World Cup to go along with his seven Ballons d’Or, four Champions Leagues, one Copa America, ten La Liga championships with Barcelona, and a French Ligue 1 title with Paris St-Germain.
This was the one. This trophy will serve as “Exhibit A” for the countless fans who believe Messi to be the best player to play the game.
Many people will now claim that Messi is the greatest because of this trophy, nearly 15 inches of solid gold. Those who have different opinions will find it easier to make their case.
No one can now dispute that Pele and Messi belong in the same pantheon and another whose image was on many Argentina banners at Lusail Stadium on Sunday. Comparisons are expanded over generations, which gives all the arguments a different frame.
Diego Maradona, his illustrious predecessor wearing Argentina’s number 10, unavoidably had a strong argument for the best. His World Cup victory in Mexico 36 years ago, which Messi did not achieve, served as the key differentiator. Now it has been taken away.
Given his history of World Cup heartbreak and disappointment, which dates back to 2006 and includes a losing final against Germany at Rio’s Maracana in 2014, Messi ought to have known that this was an honor that would not be won easily.
Before Argentina and Messi reached the pinnacles of their third World Cup victory, this spectacular night at Lusail Stadium contained a great deal of pain, which may have made it even sweeter.
The Frenchman Kylian Mbappe, 23, who will eventually join Messi in any discussion about the sport’s true elite in the years to come, displayed brilliance while all of this was happening.
Despite barely making a threat for 80 minutes, France seemed to be laying the garland for Messi’s coronation. Messi made Lusail his playground as he converted Argentina’s opening penalty kick, becoming the 1st player in WC history to score in the group stage, a round of 16, quarterfinal, semifinal, and championship matches in the same competition.
The game then proceeded as expected, with Argentina supporters beginning to celebrate until the eagerly anticipated battle with Mbappe was joined stunningly by Messi. After assisting on Angel di Maria’s second goal, the game continued as expected.
With ten minutes remaining, Mbappe equalized from the penalty spot before launching an incredible volley seconds later. Messi’s expression of “not again” disbelief could be seen on the enormous screens that lined the stadium’s four corners.
Incorporating the 34-year-old Di Maria, who wore down Jules Kounde, was a masterstroke by Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni. However, after 64 minutes, with his team leading, Scaloni appeared to succumb to fatal conservatism by substituting the laborious Marcos Acuna for Di Maria, who had appeared to give way to catastrophic conservatism.
Naturally, Messi’s second in extra time gave Argentina the victory, but Mbappe’s penalty gave France the advantage again after trailing earlier.
With the World Cup at stake in the final seconds, Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez made a foot save from Randal Kolo Muani in a nearly hysterical atmosphere. However, Lautaro Martinez still had time to head wide of an open goal at the other end.
Extra time was intensely tense—to say so would be an understatement. Some fans had to avert their eyes from the action due to the unbearable tension.
It was incredibly tense, and when it came to penalties, Argentina won 4-2. It was a painful way to end a match that will now be brought up whenever the World Cup is discussed.
Messi collapsed to his knees in sobs in the center circle after Gonzalo Montiel’s game-winning kick, raising his arms to the sky before being buried beneath a sea of light blue and white striped shirts.
Then, amidst jubilant chaos, he commandeered a microphone to address Argentina’s supporters.
After winning the award in 2014, Messi also took home the Golden Ball as the tournament’s player of the year, making history as the first player to do so since its 1982 introduction.
With 13 goals and eight assists, he has contributed 21 goals for Argentina at World Cups, which is the most of any player for any country. He now has 793 goals in his career after his goals in this World Cup final. Additionally, he was the first male World Cup player to score in each round.
One statistic stood out above all others on this particular night: Messi had finally won the World Cup.
He basked in the knowledge that he could finally complete that one gap in his trophy cabinet as he sat atop the figure-of-eight stage where he and his team had received the World Cup. The Argentina team’s friends and family later crowded the stage, celebrating as their nation regained world football dominance for the first time since 1986.
The fans of Argentina continued to sing along to the songs that served as the World Cup team’s theme song for well over an hour, paying tribute to the player they relied on. The recipient’s provider.
The initial shock of Saudi Arabia’s defeat seemed to have been decades away. With an outstanding goal against Mexico, Messi kicked off Argentina’s World Cup, and he was unstoppable as he led it to victory.
In his hands, Messi held the gilded trophy. Mission accomplished, dating back more than 16 years to when he scored as a substitute in a 6-0 victory over Serbia and Montenegro in Germany.
As the plot took so many turns against France, the final chapter of Messi’s World Cup story was a thriller from start to finish. It provided the ideal cap to a night in Qatar that will never be forgotten.