Lionel Messi cements his legacy as Argentina are crowned FIFA world champions
Argentina became champions of the footballing world this past Sunday after beating France on penalties in Doha, Qatar, in what will go down as one of the best finals ever witnessed. The build up to the match was dominated by talk of Argentina’s main man Lionel Messi. At 35 years of age, this was surely his last chance to win the one trophy that had eluded his illustrious career. This was his moment to emulate Argentinean footballing idol Diego Maradona and win his country their third World Cup. Messi was set for a showdown with France’s young star Kylian Mbappé, who was hoping to win back-to-back World Cups for his nation. Many believed a French victory would signify the passing of the torch from Messi to Mbappé as the world’s greatest player.
It was easily the most anticipated football match in recent memory and the final itself did not disappoint. Argentina quickly went 2-0 up after a Messi penalty and a well-worked team goal finished off by Ángel Di María in what was his final international match. For 80 minutes it looked as though Argentina were cruising to World Cup victory. Rumours of an illness in the French camp appeared to be true as the fatigued team looked destined for defeat. However, Mbappé had other ideas scoring an incredible two goals in two minutes, one from the spot and the other a fantastic volley fit to grace any final. It looked as though Mbappé was single handily dragging his team to World Cup glory, sparking the game back into life.
As the match went into extra time both teams nearly scored in a frantic blur of end-to-end action. Messi would not be denied his defining moment, scoring deep into extra time, and it looked for all the world as though he had won the game for his team, putting Argentina 3-2 ahead. However, once again, Mbappé would have his say, converting a 118th-minute penalty. In doing so he became only the second man ever to score a FIFA World Cup final hattrick after England’s Sir Geoff Hurst in 1966. After 120 minutes of heart-pounding action, the game finished 3-3 with both teams needing the dreaded penalty shootout to decide who would be crowned FIFA World Cup champions. Argentinian goalkeeper Emi Martinez would be the hero of the hour, with Argentina coming out on top in the shootout.
It was an emotional end to a match that had everything, with moments that will be etched in football history. In what was considered the most controversial World Cup, even before a ball had been kicked in Qatar, will now be remembered as Messi’s crowning moment as world champion and indisputably the greatest football player of his generation.
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