In what will long be remembered as one of the World Cup’s most iconic nights, Argentina lifted the Jules Rimet trophy for a third time as they edged past France in a remarkable penalty shootout.
While the South American heavyweights might have been in cruise control as Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria placed them to a 2-0 lead at half-time, we were then treated to one of football’s most famous battles at the Lusail Stadium.
Although Les Bleus might have drastically failed to find any kind of clinical edge heading into the final 10 minutes, it was their record-breaking talisman who almost completed what would have been the World Cup’s greatest comeback.
With Kylian Mbappe bagging a pair of late strikes that were separated by just one minute and 35 seconds, it appeared that Lionel Scaloni’s had lost all of their momentum and were set for more heartbreak on the grandest of stages.
However, while Argentina’s seven-time Ballon d’Or winner might have thought that he had dragged La Albiceleste over the finish line after bundling home from close range in the final minutes of extra-time, it was his PSG teammate who once again flipped the script.
Watching Mbappe convert from the spot in the final few seconds and bagging the first World Cup final hat-trick since 1966, it almost appeared destined that we would be heading to a nail-biting shootout.
Although the European giants might have mounted a pair of iconic comebacks, they eventually fell at the final hurdle as both Aurelien Tchouameni and Kingsley Coman missed from 12 yards out.
Now the dust has finally started to settle following Sunday’s remarkable clash, we have taken a look at the main talking points as Argentina were crowned world champions.
Argentina – Kings of the world
Opening their World Cup adventure on November 22nd with an infamous 2-1 loss at the hands of Saudi Arabia, Argentina always appeared to be facing an uphill struggle.
However, suffering just a single defeat from any of their previous 42 appearances across all formats – a run that stems back to July 2019 – the South American giants have only continued on a famous flurry under Scaloni.
While it might have been bitter rivals Brazil who opened this winter’s Qatar quest tipped as a standout pick with many, Argentina have rightfully gained a string of plaudits in the Middle East.
Showing a similar level of resolve that saw them edge their way past Holland earlier in the month, La Albiceleste have certainly written another chapter in the World Cup history books.
Ending their 36 years of waiting with another remarkable display at the Lusail Stadium, Argentina and their young stars will now have their sights set on creating a real dynasty after winning the Copa America 17 months ago.
It was written in the stars for Messi
While it might be Argentina who were crowned world champions for a third time on Sunday night, it was undeniably their record-breaking legend that stole all of the headlines in Qatar.
With neutrals from across the globe all desperate to see Messi get his hands on a first world crown and put the cherry on top of his iconic career, it almost appeared written in the stars for the 35-year-old trailblazer.
Producing what has been a famous display in the Middle East over the past month and almost single-handily dragging La Albiceleste over the finish line, Messi has also cemented his spot as the greatest player of a generation.
Bagging two goals on Sunday night and recording seven World Cup strikes in Qatar this year, the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner was clearly emotional at finally replicating his idol, Diego Maradona.
Still showing that he is at the peak of his powers, the PSG talisman was also awarded the Best Player of the Tournament award after what will be remembered as the most important month in his legendary career.
Mbappe’s Golden Boot won’t be much consolation
Although many neutrals from across the globe might have been willing Messi to claim a maiden world crown on Sunday night, the hearts of all would have gone out to Mbappe after the 23-year-old produced a history-making display in Lusail.
Becoming the first player since Sir Geoff Hurst in 1966 to bag a World Cup final hat-trick, France’s superstar certainly didn’t deserve to be on the losing side after carrying Les Bleus’ hopes.
Producing a momentum of brilliance after his acrobatic finish sent Sunday’s iconic showdown to extra-time, the one-time Monaco ace won’t take much comfort from claiming this winter’s Golden Boot.
Eventually leaving Qatar with eight goals to his name – one more than his fellow PSG icon – Mbappe has only continued to show why a maiden Ballon d’Or title is just around the corner.
Almost single-handily taking the fight to Argentina in the final moments and the sole reason why Les Bleus were able to reach back-to-back World Cup finals, Europe’s hottest property should leave Qatar with his head held high.
Emi Martinez – An Argentinian icon
Although it might have been Messi who stole all of the attention in Lusail, Emi Martinez will return to Aston Villa both as a World Cup-winner and a national hero across Argentina.
While the former Arsenal keeper might have almost found his career in limbo after a decade in the wilderness, the 30-year-old has become arguably one of the most important stars in Scaloni’s side.
Cementing his spot as Argentina’s number one over the past 18 months, Martinez has also gained a reputation as a real spot-kick specialist as he once again pulled off more shootout heroics on Sunday night.
Pulling the South American giants past Holland in their quarter-final meeting on December 9th, Villa’s shot-stopper also produced a crucial moment as he denied Randal Kolo Muani with a point-blank save in the final seconds of extra-time.
Swarmed by his fellow World Cup winners at the final whistle after denying Coman with France’s second spot-kick, Martinez was also crowned with this winter’s Best Goalkeeper award.
France miss out on more World Cup history
Watching both Karim Benzema and Christopher Nkunku withdraw from their squad with respective injury issues before a ball was even kicked in Qatar, France have really had to go about things the hard way this month.
Coming past Morocco earlier in the week despite suffering a flu outbreak in their camp that saw them without a string of first-choice stars, Didier Deschamps’ side have once again demonstrated why they are among world football’s very elite.
While Les Blues might have missed out on the chance to become the first nation in almost six decades to secure back-to-back world crowns, the European heavyweights should have plenty of positives to take away once the dust has settled.
Without the likes of Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante in the Middle East, France would have shocked many as their injury-hit squad created more World Cup memories.
Coming past European rivals England on December 10th and with their attacking talisman claiming another World Cup Golden Boot, the now-former champions do appear well placed to mount another charge at the 2024 European Championships.
Argentina: Martinez, Molina, Romero, Otamendi, Tagliafico, De Paul, Fernandez, Mac Allister, Messi, Alvarez, Di Maria
Subs: Montiel, Paredes, Acuna, Pezzella, Dybala, Martinez
France: Lloris, Kounde, Varane, Upamecano, Hernandez, Rabiot, Tchouameni, Mbappe, Griezmann, Dembele, Giroud
Subs: Thuram, Camavinga, Konate, Coman, Fifana, Kolo Muani, Disasi
Goals: Argentina: Messi (23′ pen, 108′), Di Maria (36′) – France: Mbappe (80′ pen, 81′, 118′ pen)
Yellow Cards: Argentina: Montiel, Paredes, Acuna, Martinez, Fernendez – France: Giroud, Rabiot
Red Cards: N/A
Referee: Szymon Marciniak
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