How Argentina Conquered the World
By: Gyang Dakwo
Argentina won their third World Cup in an extraordinary final on Sunday as they beat France 4-2 on penalties after Lionel Messi scored twice in a 3-3 draw and Kylian Mbappe grabbed a hat-trick to bring the holders back from 2-0 and 3-2 down.
It was an incredible night of drama, high emotion, and fluctuating fortunes, delivering one of the all-time great finals to cap a wonderful tournament as its two-star players delivered command performances on the biggest stage of all.
Argentina had looked to be cruising to a one-sided victory after Messi’s penalty and a brilliant goal by Angel Di Maria in the first half put them in total control but Mbappe converted an 80th-minute penalty and volleyed in a sublime equaliser a minute later to take the game to extra time.
Messi put Argentina ahead again but Mbappe leveled with another penalty, becoming the second man to score a World Cup final hat-trick after England’s Geoff Hurst in 1966.
In the shootout, Argentina keeper Emiliano Martinez saved Kingsley Coman’s effort and Aurelien Tchouameni fired wide. That gave substitute full-back Gonzalo Montiel, who gave away the penalty for France’s third goal, the chance for the ultimate redemption, which he duly took by calmly sending Hugo Lloris the wrong way.
It meant that after his record 26th World Cup match, for the fifth and final time of asking, the 35-year-old Messi claimed the trophy his talent and commitment to his country demanded, elevating him alongside Diego Maradona, Argentina’s first football god, who carried them to their emotional second triumph in 1986 following the first in 1978.
“I wanted to close my career with this, it was the one that was missing so I can no longer ask for anything else,” said Messi, who has played 172 times for his country.
“I was able to get the Copa America and now the World Cup that I had fought so hard for. I’ve got it at the end of my career. But I love football and I want to continue living a few more games being world champion.”
The victory seems all the more incredible coming a month after his team began the tournament by suffering statistically the biggest upset in World Cup history when they lost to Saudi Arabia.