DOHA ( Associated Press) – After perhaps the most memorable final in history, Lionel Messi’s long wait to win the World Cup is over.
Messi looked to be at his maximum level of motivation, contributing two goals to bring his total to seven in Qatar and helping Albiceleste to be crowned world champions for the third time in history, securing a 4–2 win over France on penalties, which As a result a 3–3 draw was required after extra time.
Kylian Mbappé made it as difficult as possible for his Paris Saint-Germain teammate, scoring a hat-trick, including two goals in 97 seconds during the twilight of regulation, as France came back from a 2-0 deficit.
The French forward equalized again in extra time, when Messi restored the advantage to the Argentine team.
In the end, it was Messi’s turn to lift the trophy he most wanted.
After fulfilling his lifelong ambition, what’s next for the star and the Argentinian?
Hope VS. Reality
With Messi in the team, Argentina has always been among the favorite teams. But at 35 and in the later stages of his award-winning career, the striker seemed less resourceful than in previous years to lead his country to success. And when Saudi Arabia pulled off the biggest upset in 92-year World Cup history by beating Argentina 2-1 in the group stage, the prospect of early elimination seemed that much closer.
Messi led the team to recovery from that setback, and delivered one of the best performances in the tournament’s history with seven goals and three assists. Although Argentina’s hopes for this World Cup will not be at their highest in history, Messi has fulfilled them by winning the biggest prize in football and with one of the greatest missions of his career.
Messi has said that he will continue for some time. But expecting him to play another World Cup would be too much. Ángel di María is 34 and in early 2022 he said he would retire from Albiceleste following his appointment in Qatar.
Nicolas Otamendi is also 34 and will hardly be in the team four years from now when Argentina look to defend their title. Coach Lionel Scaloni has certainly won the hearts of fans at the prestigious club after winning the World Cup at the relatively young age of 44.
Despite the fact that Messi has been the inspiration for Argentina, the title also came thanks to a talented squad with youngsters who have yet to reach their full potential. The most notable case is that of 22-year-old striker Julián Álvarez, who scored four goals to become his country’s new star attacker.
Midfielder Enzo Fernandez, 21, was named best young player at the World Cup and has been linked with high-flying clubs despite only recently signing with Benfica. Defenders Cristian Romero and Nahuel Molina are 24, while midfielder Alexis McAllister is 23. Sacaloni has a good foundation to build the next team.
What will happen next?
It remains to be seen whether the qualifying round for the next World Cup will start in March as has been suggested. What is certain is that Argentina will be looking to back up their Copa America title in the 2024 edition.
James Robson is on Twitter at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson