The football gods wouldn’t have it any other way: as world champion, Lionel Messi is in the twilight of his career.
Messi scored two of Argentina’s three regular-time goals to resist the seemingly unstoppable Kylian Mbappe and send the thrilling fight down to penalties, finishing 3-3 after 120 minutes.
WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: The moment Argentina won the World Cup final.
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Gonzalo Montiel had the final kick of the tournament when he put Argentina’s fourth shot into the back net on penalties to end one of the greatest spectacles the sport has ever seen.
The South Americans became only the second team in World Cup history after Spain in 2010 to win the title after losing their opening game after suffering a shock defeat by Saudi Arabia in the group stage.
Billed as a box office contest between two of world football’s biggest names, it did not disappoint.
In a game that had it all, Argentina had to win three times as France refused to lie down.
Argentina appeared to have the title in their pockets after suffocating the defending champions in a dominant first half that saw the South Americans lead 2-0 at the break.
Messi opened the scoring with his sixth goal of the tournament when he netted a penalty in the 23rd minute.
His first goal in a major tournament final came after a striking play by Angel Di Maria, who drew the penalty.
Di Maria entered the penalty area on the left when Ousmane Dembélé fouled him from behind and the referee gave the call.
Who else but Messi would step on the plate and the veteran didn’t disappoint.
Di Maria, who had not started since the group stage and only came on for eight minutes in the quarter-final win over the Netherlands, made his mark again when he found himself at the end of a tournament.
Starting with a skillful touch from Messi, Julián Álvarez released down the right flank, who sent a perfect ball down the path of breaker Emiliano Martinez.
With the lure of a heroic shot on goal beckoning, Martinez had the stunning temper and vision to play a pass across the box like a surgeon on Di Maria, who had found room down the left and only French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris in between had him and the back of the net.
Di Maria ended the perfectly orchestrated game to score Argentina’s second goal in 13 minutes when the defending champions suddenly found their backs to the wall.
Argentina’s dominance continued in the second half as French talisman Kylian Mbappe struggled to assert himself in the game.
With just 10 minutes left on the clock, Messi’s finest hour seemed to be over – until Mbappe had something to say about it.
As if on cue, the 23-year-old turned the game upside down in a two-minute frenzy that netted him two goals and revitalized his nation from a seemingly unfortunate position.
France were awarded a penalty of their own when Nicolás Otamendi fouled a breaking Randal Kolo Muani who might otherwise have had a shot on target after bursting down the left flank.
As surely as Messi would line up for Argentina, so did Mbappe for France.
Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez guessed correctly but Mbappe’s strike was too powerful to be stopped when France suddenly breathed life back into their World Cup defence.
Mbappe quickly grabbed the ball to restart the game and if you blinked you would have missed what happened next.
Just a minute later, Mbappe scored one of the tournament’s goals to draw level with Argentina and make the game an instant classic.
Mbappe took the ball out of the air and sent a crazy horizontal scissors punch that thundered past Martinez again and blew the roof off the stadium.
France then threatened to complete the most remarkable comeback of all before the end of the season, but Argentina stuck by sending the World Cup final to overtime.
After a stalemate in the first half, the exciting fight went to another level, if at all possible.
Lloris seemed to have saved France as he blocked a rocket shot on goal, but the deflection fell straight into the lap of none other than Lionel Messi, who sent the ball past the keeper and over the line.
Jules Koundé prevented the ball from hitting the back of the net but he had crossed the line well and truly and Messi seemed to have dragged his side back over the line with just 12 minutes left on the clock.
But one of the great World Cup finals in history had a few more chapters.
Just three minutes later, Mbappe had a shot from the corner of the box that went straight into the arm of Gonzalo Montiel, who was penalized for a handball.
Mbappe then made history by becoming only the second player ever to score a hat-trick at a World Cup, which was one of the greatest feats of all time.
After 30 minutes of extra time, the two teams were tied 3-3 and the game was to be decided by penalties.
Mbappe and Messi both got their first shots but Martinez gave Argentina the upper hand when he saved the second penalty.
Paulo Dybala converted his next shot to cement the lead and Aurélien Tchouameni turned a poor start into a nightmare when he missed the target with France’s third shot.
Montiel ended the competition with the World Cup winning shot as Argentina were crowned world champions.
“Argentina won the World Cup! France lost their title!” said commentator Martin Tyler.
“Lionel Messi won the World Cup! What a fairy tale, what a finale!
“France is flattened. They kind of stuck with it. But penalties they saved in actual football competition were their penalty shootout failures. It’s the cruellest way to lose. But somehow that has to be decided. And the drama is clear.
“And the scenes of joy on one side versus the scenes of despair on the other.
“Well, Messi has been saluting around the globe. Mbappe too, but he has more to come. But that’s his time – the holy grail, the genius has the medal he’s been chasing for five tournaments, lucky the fifth time. The Shining Star of Qatar 2022.”
https://7news.com.au/sport/world-cup-soccer/lionel-messi-survives-kylian-mbappe-hat-trick-to-win-world-cup-final-in-penalty-shootout-drama-c-9205907 Lionel Messi survives Kylian Mbappe’s hat-trick to win 2022 FIFA World Cup final in penalty shootout drama