FIFA World Cup

Messi Inspires Argentina to Victory in Memorable World Cup Final

In what arguably be one of the best FIFA World Cup finals to be played out, Lionel Messi inspired Argentina to win their third World Cup title after overcoming France on penalties after an exciting 3-3 draw at the Lusail Iconic Stadium on Sunday.

The game was drummed up to be a clash of maestros between Messi and France’s own talismanic player Kylian Mbappe and those spectating the game in Qatar and worldwide were not disappointed by the two’s duel, with Messi scoring twice and Mbappe scoring a hat-trick – the first hat-trick in a World Cup final since 1966 – to ensure that the match would end in a 3-3 stalemate after 120 minutes.

The two Paris Saint-Germain teammates then scored for their respective teams in the ensuing shootout, however Argentina had other heroes up their sleeves – Aston Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez denying Kingsley Coman and Sevilla defender Gonzalo Montiel planting the winning spot kick to win Argentina their first World Cup since 1986.

With Messi set to play his last-ever World Cup match in Sunday’s final, the match seemed to be scripted towards a fairytale ending of Messi’s story, with La Pulga giving Argentina the lead with a 23rd minute penalty following a foul on Angel di Maria, before initiating a counterattack that led to Argentina’s second goal in the 36th minute, which saw Brighton & Hove Albion’s Alexis Mac Allister teaming up with Juventus’ Di Maria for the latter to blast home past Hugo Lloris in the French goal.

Messi’s opener was made more monumental by the fact that it made him the first player in history to score in the group stages, the round of 16, the quarterfinal, the semifinal, and the final of a single World Cup tournament.

Throughout the first half and most of the second half, Argentina were the dominant side, limiting defending World Cup champions France to a few sparse chances here and there, before Mbappe made his presence known in the 80th minute.

With time trickling down and Argentina seemingly set for glory, France substitute Randal Kolo Muani was fouled in the area, leaving the referee no choice but to award a penalty. Mbappe then coolly executed the spot-kick, reducing the deficit for France in the process.

Only 60 seconds later, Mbappe then struck again, blasting home a magnificent volley that blew the contest wide open and ensuring that France would not go down without a fight.

Argentina were unable to find a way past Lloris for a third time throughout the remainder of the match, ensuring that the match would end in a 2-2 stalemate after 90 minutes.

Extra-time saw an exchange of blows between the two sides, each of them pushing hard to clinch a winner. After a goalless first 15 minutes, three minutes into the second stanza of extra-time saw Messi scrambling home a Lautaro Martinez ball into the France goal. Despite a France defender clearing the ball at the last minute, the ball had already crossed the line by the time he did so, earning Argentina their lead once again.

But as La Albaceleste braced themselves for a 3-2 win, France dropped yet another plot twist in the 118th minute. Montiel had inadvertently handled the ball within the area as he tried to thwart a French attempt on Martinez’s goal, prompting the referee to award Les Bleus with another penalty.

Mbappe once again took it upon himself to dispatch the penalty, sending Martinez the wrong way to once again equalize for France and complete his hat-trick.

With the scoreline tied at 3-3 after 120 minutes, a penalty shootout was needed to decide who will win this year’s World Cup.

Both Mbappe and Messi, the first takers of France and Argentina, did their jobs perfectly, before a strong save from Martinez denied Coman’s effort, allowing Paulo Dybala to snatch the lead for Argentina.

Aurelien Tchouameni then sent his penalty wide to further dash France’s hopes of retaining the World Cup, before Leandro Paredes extended Argentina’s lead even further. Kolo Muani then scored for France to give Les Bleus a glimmer of hope, however Montiel stepped up and drove home a dagger of a penalty to seal Argentina’s third World Cup title.

Wild celebrations erupted from the Argentina camp once Montiel had scored his winning penalty, with a tearful Messi being mobbed by his jubilant teammates, his quest for the World Cup, finally complete. The missing puzzle piece for one of the world’s greatest players’ trophy cabinet has been found, cementing Messi’s name in the pantheon of legends who has won everything in their sights during their careers. Indeed, the perfect way of finishing your final World Cup tournament.

Garbed in a traditional Arabic cloth and with his teammates watching on, Messi hoisted the World Cup trophy above his head, finally settling the age-old debate of who is the “GOAT” (greatest of all time). The likes of Mbappe and Erling Haaland might stake their own claim to the title in the next few years, but for now, the title is rightfully Messi’s.