Why Argentina’s win over France was the greatest World Cup final ever


It seems like only yesterday that Enna Valencia beat Qatar in the opening game of the 2022 World Cup.

As the dust settled on a mesmerizing football match, fans watched arguably one of the greatest World Cups in the sport’s history.

In fitting fashion, Sunday’s final exploded like a fireworks display, capping off the Qatar 2022 Olympics.

It was a final featuring superstar duels, penalties, iconic goals and a goalkeeper masterclass as Lionel Messi was crowned world champion after Argentina beat France on penalties.

The most important moment, the one that will live on in memory like an impressionist masterpiece, was the iconic image of Messi – held aloft on the shoulders of his teammates – with the World Cup trophy finally in his hands.

Lionel Messi lifted the World Cup trophy after beating France in the final.

The game is being called Kylian Mbappe v Messi – with the 23-year-old France star poised to take over the mantle of world’s greatest player from his 35-year-old Paris Saint-Germain team-mate.

Mbappe is defending France’s victory at Russia 2018 and Messi is playing his final World Cup game, looking to claim a trophy he has long eluded, which would allow him to compete with Diego Mara. Dona’s achievement in winning the race in 1986 is comparable.

The opening 79 minutes were all about Messi. The Argentine captain scored a penalty and Argentina took the lead.Next, his deft touch is the key to the bounce action, which leads to La Albiceleste second.

Then, at the closing stage of regular time, Mbappe single-handedly took control of the game, scoring two goals in two minutes and dragging the final into overtime.

Messi looks like he’s shooting the ball, while Mbappe looks like he’s just getting started.

In addition to the diminutive Argentine, he scored the second goal of the game in the 109th minute to restore the lead.

Mbappe refused to admit defeat, encouraged his teammates, and scored a hat-trick with the second penalty kick, dragging the final into a penalty shootout.

Mbappe and Messi both scored in the shootout, but in the end – France missed twice – the Argentine captain was mobbed by his team-mates and his World Cup dream came true.

Over two hours of football, the two players – at two different stages in their careers – showcased the beautiful game in vivid, glorious colour.

Mbappe was on the bench at the end of the World Cup final.

The last time a World Cup final went to penalties was in 2006, when France were again beaten by Italy.

Sometimes it doesn’t feel fair to settle a game in a penalty shootout, which is a series of actions between the penalty taker and the goalkeeper.

However, the pressure and tension seemed to be heightened by a flood of penalties at the Lusail Stadium on Sunday.

Messi’s first-half penalty netted him his first World Cup final goal, and the penalty shoot-out was calm personified.

Mbappe’s ability to successfully switch from the spot not once, not twice, but three times in a game shows great aggressiveness.

Mbappe scored France's third goal against Argentina in the World Cup final.

Previously at Qatar 2022, one team had experienced the intensity of that pressure-cooker atmosphere and emerged from the other side, and the other hadn’t.

Argentina’s epic quarter-final victory over the Netherlands, which ended in a penalty shootout, saw South America display distraction and stalling tactics that could Said to mentally torture their opponents.

In Sunday’s final, Argentine goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez showed his ability to distract the French players, saving the ball before Aurélien Tchouaméni’s shot went wide. France’s previous shot – Kingsley Coman – was saved by Martinez.

A penalty shootout is arguably unlike anything else in sport – it’s a modern duel and the stakes of the World Cup final only heighten the tension and drama.

Martinez saves France's Kingsley Coman's penalty in the World Cup final.

World Cup finals are often tense and cautious affairs, goals are very important.

Argentina and France lost that script – scoring six goals, two of the highest quality.

Argentina’s second goal was arguably as good as Carlos Alberto’s stunning goal in Brazil’s 4-1 win over Italy in the 1970 World Cup final.

It was in the 35th minute when Alexis McAllister’s flick from a corner gave Messi some pressure off the Argentine backline as France pushed for an equaliser.

The Argentine scored after Messi’s deft touch on Julian Alvarez and the Manchester City striker’s pass to a running Mike Allister.

Mac Allister unselfishly passed the ball to Ángel Di María, who scored a brilliant counter-attack to give Argentina a 2-0 lead.

Angel Di Maria celebrates after scoring Argentina's second goal against France in the World Cup final.

At the time, it seemed to be the climax of Argentina’s dominant victory until Mbappe stepped forward.

After his penalty cut it to 2-1, a clever one-two with Marcus Thuram dropped the ball to the Paris Saint-Germain star in the sky on the edge of the Argentine box.

For what seemed like all the time in the world, Mbappe displayed brilliant technique and timing, thundering the ball past a desperate Martinez.

These are the moments that capture the imagination and that will determine the 2022 World Cup final.

It will be remembered for many reasons – Lionel Messi’s historic moment, Mbappe’s hat-trick in defeat, the see-saw nature of the match that wobbled from start to finish and never ceased to pull the emotions of the stunned crowd.

Of course, the title of “greatest World Cup final” is hotly contested.

Uruguay beat Brazil in Rio de Janeiro in 1950, and four years later West Germany delivered another surprise win over Hungary’s Magical Magyars to give the country its first World Cup title.

Jeff Hurst scored the first hat-trick of a World Cup final against England and Seagram in 1966. Hurst’s second goal is still talked about 56 years later – did the ball go out of bounds? Indeed, England won 4-2, according to match officials.

The 1970 final marked Pele’s last World Cup appearance and he won his third title with Brazil’s victory over Italy.

Four years later in Munich, hosts West Germany came from behind to win their second World Cup title with a 2-1 victory over a star-studded Dutch team of Johan Cruyff and Johan Neeskens.

Like Qatar’s Messi in 2022, Diego Maradona almost single-handedly led his side to their second title in eight years, beating West Germany 3-2 in the final.

In 1998, France hosted the World Cup for the first time and won it, largely thanks to the genius of Zidane, who scored twice in the final to defeat a team led by Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Cafu, Bebeto and Roberto Cafu. A strong Brazilian team composed of Ross.

However, with its multiple storylines as well as its drama and artistry, the 2022 showpiece now undoubtedly holds the title of “Greatest World Cup Final”.


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