LUSAIL, Qatar ( Associated Press) – In a film about the end of his World Cup career, Lionel Messi settled all the arguments.
The 35-year-old star powered Argentina to a third world title after beating defending champions France 4-2 on penalties at the Lucel Stadium in the memorable first-ever tournament in the Middle East.
In his fifth and final World Cup, Messi removed Kante despite the fact that his most likely successor, Kylian Mbappe, almost stopped him with his first hat-trick in a final in 56 years to make it 3-3 after 120 minutes. . maximum stress.
“Come on Argentina… your mother’s (abusive word). We are the world champions!” Messi, the author of two goals in 120 minutes of play, shouted in front of a frenzied crowd of Argentine fans just before lifting the golden trophy, with which he repaid his only debt to football.
With seven Ballon d’Or, four Champions Leagues, a Copa America and now a World Cup, the Argentine has surely entered the pantheon of the best in the history of the game alongside Pele and Diego Maradona. It was also in the same tournament that his rival Cristiano Ronaldo bid a tearful goodbye in the quarter-finals and could hardly lift the trophy with his Portugal.
“It’s crazy that it happened like this. I wanted it so much,” Messi said. “I knew God was going to give it to me, I had a premonition that it was going to happen.”
Messi, dressed in a black Qatari tunic, kissed the World Cup and shook it before lifting it.
Argentina would seal their jackets with a third star after the 1978 and 1986 consecrations. He was on the losing side in the next two finals he played in 1990 and 2014.
Albiceleste ended 20 years of European hegemony in the World Cup. France, champions in 1998 and 2018, were left with a desire to emulate Brazil, the last team to make two consecutive tours in 1958 and 1962.
Argentina coach Scaloni said, “I want to tell people to enjoy it because it is a historic moment.”
In the penalty shootout, Argentina had a perfect production with executions from Messi, Paulo Dybala, Leandro Paredes and lastly Gonzalo Montiel. Kingsley Coman’s shot was saved by goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, while Aurelien Toumeni fired wide.
Mbappé and Randall Kolo Muani scored the goals for the Blues.
Midfielder Rodrigo de Paul said, “We are born to suffer, we will suffer for the rest of our lives, but I will not forget it now.” “To become champion you had to beat the previous champion and we did.”
Argentina’s mainstay in the tournament was knowing how to suffer to win. Even in the finals.
It was a tactical first half from Argentina with Messi in the lead but the defending champions emerged from the darkness with Mbappe’s fire.
In what has been a constant throughout the tournament, the South American team did not repeat the squad compared to the previous match. Scaloni, his young 44-year-old coach, surprised Di Maria with his entrance from the start, this time for the sprinters’ duel with Mbappe.
The Italian Juventus footballer, who missed the 2014 World Cup final in Brazil due to a tear, played only a few minutes in the deciding leg in Qatar due to an overload in the quadriceps of his left leg. Finally, he was preparing for his final ceremony with the national team as he had announced his retirement from it in the previous tournament.
It was an attacking start from Argentina, with midfielders Rodrigo de Paul, Enzo Fernandez and Alexis McAllister all the lions hungry for the blue prey. There was also a constant search for a change from the front to Di Maria on the left behind Jules Kunde.
In one of Argentina’s many runs, Ousmane Dembele committed a child foul with him in the area, which was immediately penalized by Polish referee Szymon Marciniak.
Messi stopped at the penalty spot, closed his eyes, took a deep breath and stroked the ball with his left foot. The ball, halfway through, enters in slow motion as if thrown in the opposite direction by Hugo Lloris, one of the best goalkeepers in the tournament.
Albiceleste took the lead, as in the previous six matches played in Qatar.
Like children in the South American country’s pastures, the Argentines frolicked in the French backyard with a succession of touches before scoring the second goal. Nahuel Molina recovered the ball in his own half and offloaded it to Messi. La Pulga first played for Julian Alvarez, who in turn teamed up with Mac Allister. The English Brighton midfielder touched down the middle of the area for Di Maria, facing the only resistance from Dayot Upamecano.
With the coolness of an assassin, the 34-year-old forward defined with his left foot. This was his first scream in Qatar.
France, the most dominant European team of the century with titles in three finals, was affected by the flu virus leading up to the decisive match, affecting many of its most important players such as Upamecano, Raphael Varane and Adrien Rabiot. ,
In intensive care, French coach Didier Deschamps moved the bench, removing Dembele, Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud. The team got a dose of energy with Marcus Thuram, Kolo Muani and Koeman in attack.
On the Argentine side, a material decline became apparent. Scaloni brought out Di Maria for Marcos Acuña, to make a row of five that blitzed the team and cost them dearly.
And in the confusion of Argentina, Mbappe started his role.
Ten minutes from the end, he beat goalkeeper Martínez with a penalty, which had been awarded for a foul on Kolo Muani by defender Nicolás Otamendi. A minute later, the French star sealed his double for an improbable draw.
France coach Deschamps said, “We have reversed and revived a compromising situation.” “The ending is cruel. The dream did not come true.”
At the start of the attacking play, Koeman himself stole a ball down the middle from Messi, which ended with Mbappe’s superb volley.
The Argentina captain had the last word before Lloris brought down the hammer on 90 minutes with a left-footed shot from outside the frustrated area.
In extra time, Lautaro Martinez fired a bomb that was cleared by Lloris, but Messi appeared like a leprechaun to push it away. Defender Upamecano kicked it out of his own goal, but the referee signaled a goal.
Between the World Cup and the Copa América, these were the only goals scored by the star in the six finals he played with his team. Among the many records he broke in Qatar, El Díaz became the first player in tournament history to net the net in each instance of the group round and the knockout stage.
With a world title and a Copa América as well as two appearances in the final, Messi himself surpassed Maradona’s football output, which he could not convert into the only World Cups he won in the 1986 or 1990 finals.
But his team could not take advantage. Full-back Montiel cleared a shot in Embappé’s area with his forearm, resulting in a penalty which the striker himself converted to complete his hat-trick.
Before the penalty shootout, Argentina’s goalkeeper saved a point-blank shot from Kolo Muani and then a lonely Martinez went wide in the French area.
When the highlights of the final were drawn to Messi and Mbappé, goalkeeper “Dibu” Martínez became the hero of the film. After the Frenchman missed two penalties in the 1990s that he was unable to save, the Aston Villa goalkeeper stepped up in his moment of truth and saved Coman’s shot. Then Tchoumeni remembered him.
Argentina was strong this time and didn’t let him get away.
“Today I am released,” said Scaloni. “This team only makes me proud, it’s all theirs.”