FIFA World Cup

Argentina rules incredible World Cup final over France in shootout

Reuters
Argentina rules incredible World Cup final over France in shootout

HISTORIC. Argentina's Lionel Messi celebrates with Leandro Paredes after winning the World Cup.

Dylan Martinez/REUTERS

Lionel Messi and Argentina bag the World Cup crown after dethroning France on penalties, following a dramatic draw after extra time

LUSAIL, Qatar – Argentina won its third World Cup in extraordinary style, beating France 4-2 in a penalty shootout after Lionel Messi scored twice in a 3-3 draw that featured a hat-trick for Kylian Mbappe as the holders recovered from 2-0 down after 80 minutes.

It was an incredible night of drama and fluctuating fortunes, delivering one of the all-time great finals to cap a wonderful tournament on Sunday, December 18 (Monday, December 19, Manila time). 

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 an equalizer 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 Geoff Hurst for England 1966.

That took the game to a shootout where Argentina keeper Emiliano Martinez saved Kingsley Coman’s penalty and Aurelien Tchouameni fired wide to give Gonzalo Montiel to chance to win it, which he gleefully took.

It meant that after his record 26th World Cup match, at the fifth and final time of asking, the 35-year-old Messi finally claimed the trophy that he and his nation demanded, lifting him up alongside Diego Maradona after the country’s first football God carried them to their emotional second triumph in 1986 following their first in 1978.

It 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 were beaten by Saudi Arabia.

“I cannot believe that we have suffered so much in a perfect game. Unbelievable, but this team responds to everything,” Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni said.

“I am proud of the work they did. With the blows we received today, this makes you emotional. I want to tell people to enjoy, it’s a historic moment for our country.”

Neat turn

There seemed little hint of the drama to come as Argentina dominated the first hour, outrunning and outfighting a flat French team seeking to be the first to retain the title since Brazil 60 years ago.

They went ahead when the recalled Di Maria beat Ousmane Dembele and was tripped for a penalty that Messi slotted in after 23 minutes.

There then came one of the best goals to grace a final after 36 minutes when instinctive passing by Nahuel Molina, Messi, Julian Alvarez, and Alexis Mac Allister set up Di Maristo slide in the second.

France barely fired a shot in anger until the 80th minute when Nicolas Otamendi tripped Randal Kolo Muani and Mbappe, previously anonymous, expertly converted the resulting penalty.

A minute later he swept in a brilliant equalizing volley after combining cleverly with Marcus Thuram, stunning the massed Argentine fans watching their team concede two quick-fire goals for the third time in the tournament.

Argentina regained the lead after a counter-attack when the tireless Lautaro Martinez smashed a shot at Hugo Lloris and Messi pounced on the rebound with a rare right-footed finish, technology confirming the ball had crossed the line.

The drama was not over, however, as Mbappe hammered a shot against the arm of Montiel to win another penalty in the 117th minute, which he calmly dispatched for an amazing hat-trick and a tournament-topping eighth goal.

Mbappe and Messi both converted the opening spot-kicks of the shootout but then had to stand back and let their teammates decide their destiny. – Rappler.com

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