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Argentina win World Cup after penalty shootout victory over France

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Even a story that felt like fate had an ending that no one could have expected. Lionel Messi becomes the most beautiful of winners, in the ugliest of scenarios and after the greatest of difficulties.

That last pristine fact somehow made it even more special, it just spoke more of the glory of it all. After a game that involved so much self-doubt, which reached levels where we talked about the human spirit, let alone sportsmanship, there’s no arguing about his legacy.

He has confirmed himself as the best player in history, after the greatest final in history, and an occasion that so rightly had so many historical echoes. Messi finally emulated Diego Maradona when Kylian Mbappe came so close to following Pelé, the match itself features notes from 1954, 1958, 1966 and 1986. However, we are in 2022 and it is the year of Messi; His moment He has his first World Cup, Argentina has his third, but only after winning this amazing and incredible final three times.

It was 3-3 and then 4-2 on penalties over France, but that’s what remains on the records. What really must be told is the emotion, the drama, the theatricality, the liberation, the image of the players going to the absolute limit because this is what the World Cup means.

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This was beyond. The games of these bets almost never reach such states of emotion, performance, ecstasy.

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However, he only got there because Messi’s great successor in Mbappé took Argentina this far. He became the second player in a World Cup final after Geoff Hurst to score a hat-trick, to also beat Messi for the golden boot.

As if that thing here bothers him, as if it matters in that moment of ecstasy, of joy. Such trials did better. For Lionel Scaloni’s team to win it the way it seemed like he would for 79 minutes would have been too easy, not epic enough, it didn’t fit in with the long night of the soul that this entire tournament has been. That is why they spoke of the spirit of Maradona and of 1986.

France and Didier Deschamps should not go without the highest praise. They were so close to becoming the first to retain since 1962. Qatar wouldn’t care either way of course. It did not matter who lost, since one of his stars from Paris Saint-Germain won. The Lusail are now associated with this in the way that the Azteca are associated with Maradona and Pele. The great immorality of this World Cup should not be forgotten among these figures who border on immortality. His calculation has paid off. This should not be sportwashed. And yet it’s so hard not to get lost in it all. This is what they were buying.

This was what Argentina almost squandered. Those first 79 minutes now almost feel like a different game, a different world, but it was just the setting; the first act of the true story.

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While every action from Argentina was so immediately true, so many French touches were out of place, so many players in a bad mood. Ousmane Dembele’s first moment of the match was poor control of an offside ball. It was a sign of what was to come.

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When Ángel Di María went back in with another perforation on that side, Dembélé inexplicably cut it. Di María was at that moment the necessary rhythm for Messi’s poise.

He prepared his mentality for the first goal of the match, and Messi’s sixth in this World Cup.

The captain this time waited for Hugo Lloris to commit, before simply passing him. He had a casual nature that was only emphasized by the deafening display of emotion that followed. Messi slid to the ground in a gleefully childish manner, as the entire Argentine winger, and surely the entire country, rose in deafening celebration.

Messi opened the scoring from the penalty spot

(AP)

His team had all the value for leadership, and now he was fully prepared to capitalize even more. Having previously been based on the counter-attack, the Frenchman had to come out, and that meant even more of those holes appeared.

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It seemed that the World Cup itself was there for the taking. Argentina just had to step up. They did exactly that, delivering a team goal that ranks up there with any in the history of this match and this competition.

Dayot Upamecano tried to get his team to move on, but it was only thrown right back at Argentina. However, it couldn’t be said that he went straight to the other extreme, but only because there were so many exquisite angles. Of course, it was Messi who picked up the pace of the play and quickened the pulse even in this. When the ball was tagged to him in the middle, he fluently flicked it around the side on the spin for Julián Álvarez to run towards him. The pitch had just opened up, Alexis Mac Allister slipping past Di María for an even more deserved goal.

That might have been it for France. Deschamps admitted this by going for something drastic. It was to prove absolutely the right measure, if Dembele and Olivier Giroud were dragged somewhat behind by Randal Kolo Muani and Marcus Thuram. It was the first time that a World Cup finalist had made two substitutions before half time.

Argentina was the first team since the French themselves, in 1998, to lead by two goals at half time. The last team to squander a two-goal lead in a World Cup final before this, though? Argentina 1986.

Deschamps’s changes finally took effect, and what an effect, just in time. After so much strange French passivity, Kolo Muani finally did it. Moving forward in a way that Argentina had yet to face in this final, Nicolás Otamendi was trapped in the way that seemed likely throughout the tournament. He shot down Kolo Muani, the French were back, and on him.

The transformation was as extreme as it was exhilarating.

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It was as if taking a step forward made Mbappé wake up. He drove the ball past Emiliano Martínez. The goalkeeper was about to reach him, but it was a sign that France was now always one step ahead. There, at this point, it just looked like a winner, let alone an equalizer.

It was another one of those substitutes who stepped in, Thuram leaving the ball for Mbappe to let himself go for the moment and take advantage of the game. He hit the truest volley on the rebound, to fly past Martinez.

Mbappé scored twice in two minutes to send the match into extra time

(fake images)

After an exhibition, we finally had a soccer game, and the biggest of the finals. It was time for the best of players to rise.

Messi lit the way for Argentina again with a brilliant goal in the final moments of the 90s, that would have been the most outstanding way to win a World Cup. Yet somehow there was more to come.

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There was Upamecano, rectifying his earlier mistake with the most challenging of blocks. Lauturo Martínez should have shot earlier.

He eventually fired off a shot that made enough of a difference. It was his effort that Lloris almost stopped, leaving Messi to finish off what should have been the winner.

Argentina celebrated as if it were.

That may have been the mistake. Argentina was so close. Too close. Mbappé shot the ball forward and Nahuel Molina blocked but his arm was out. He was going to have a hand again. There was to be another redemption story.

Argentina prevailed in the penalty shootout

(getty)

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Mbappé had to keep calm again. He raised the roof again, taking the apparatus to a scale never before achieved.

Still missing was an outstanding save from Martinez and a miss from Martinez. You could write an epic just in that final minute of football. It was to be another foreshadowing piece in this great story.

The game was hitting these narrative stakes. Many might have expected Messi to ultimately miss after Mbappe scored France’s first in a penalty shootout.

However, it was not going to be a tragedy. It was a story that was instead going to have everything else.

Messi has completed the game. He has finally fulfilled his career. He has won everything, but this is above everything.

Messi is alone. Above the albiceleste, conveniently, only sky remains.

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