The coronation! Superstar Lionel Messi finally led his Argentina to the long-awaited World Cup triumph and brutally tore defending champion France from all their dreams. The Albiceleste, with their outstanding leader again, won the highly dramatic final of the controversial Qatar finals on Sunday evening 4-2 on penalties. 36 years after the great Diego Maradona won the title, Messi won the greatest football honor for his home country at the fifth attempt, where the celebrations were ecstatic.
Meanwhile, in front of 88,966 spectators at the Lusail Stadium, the long-time disappointment of the Équipe Tricolore missed a historic chance to lift the Golden Cup for the second time in a row like Brazil did in 1962. The fact that France was even able to save itself in extra time was thanks to the 2018 world champion to his superstar Kylian Mbappé. The 23-year-old had also not achieved much for a long time - until his converted penalty kick in the 80th minute and the fantastic side kick (81st) to make it 2-2 after regular time. And in extra time it was Mpappé who saved France with the goal to make it 3: 3 with a hand penalty (118th) in a penalty shootout.
The six-time world footballer Messi had previously scored a penalty kick (23rd) to make it 1-0, in extra time (109th) followed his 13th World Cup goal, with which he surpassed Brazil's football icon Pelé (12). The strong Ángel Di María (36th) had made it 2-0 in regular time before the break. In the shoot-out, Messi and Mbappé were the first to score on their team.
In addition to Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, numerous guests of honor watched in the best entertainment from the grandstand. President Emmanuel Macron had traveled from France, and the final was a showcase for big politics. The Emir briefly waved to the thousands of fans before kick-off, and cheers erupted. On the national holiday, the emirate got what had been worked towards since the World Cup was awarded twelve years ago, perfectly planned: a brilliant finale in the spotlight - despite the loud criticism, especially from Germany, about human rights violations and the exploitation of foreign workers.
The entire spectacle is said to have cost over 200 billion euros. As in the Hollywood script, the final with star players Messi and Mbappé fitted into the Qatar roar. Both are signed to Paris Saint-Germain, the French flagship club funded by Qatar as a promotional venture. Messi was already much more present in the early stages - like the entire Argentine selection.
Coach Lionel Scaloni was more offensive after the clear semi-final win against Croatia. Di María threatened from the start down the left and the 34-year-old also won the penalty against the unfortunate Ousmane Dembélé. Messi immediately grabbed the ball after referee Szymon Marciniak whistled - closed his eyes briefly at the penalty spot and gave France's record goalkeeper Hugo Lloris no chance with a low shot into the lower right corner. With arms spread wide, Messi celebrated his sixth goal in Qatar.
How much has been written about the superstar in the past few days? Every movement, every sentence was followed, sometimes commented on euphorically. The best Messi ever? And now the fulfillment of your lifelong dream? As soon as the 35-year-old got off the team bus at 4:35 p.m., he could hear the loud cheering of his compatriots in the stadium. In Argentina, where the final kicked off in the morning, millions of people trembled and trembled.
For a long time there was little to see from Mbappé, but Antoine Griezmann, Dembélé and Olivier Giroud also disappeared. The highly praised offensive of the Équipe Tricolore found no attempt to overcome the Argentine defense in this phase of the game. Coach Deschamps watched most of it from the coaching bench, only now and then did the captain of the French world champion selection from 1998 stand up and shout something onto the pitch.
The French didn't see the perfect counterattack coming from Julián Álvarez, Alexis Mac Allister and finally Di María. The goalscorer, who had failed to start the entire knockout phase, screamed his delight at Lusail's night sky. Shortly thereafter, Deschamps reacted - he had to.
The visibly served coach, whose team had been struggling with illnesses in recent days, took Dembélé and Giroud off the field in the 41st minute. Frankfurt Randal Kolo Muani and Gladbach Marcus Thuram came into the game, Mbappé moved into the center of the storm. In the second half, Kingsley Coman came on from Bayern Munich (71st). And after Rodrigo de Paul (48th) and Messi (60th) missed a third Argentine goal, the three Bundesliga pros did well for the previously weak French offensive.
It was Kolo Muani who scooped out the penalty before the 1-2. And it was Coman who, after Mbappé's spectacular equalizer, pushed one French attack after another. The battered Argentina even happily saved themselves in extra time in the final minutes, in which they had to do without Di María, who was exhausted and substituted after a good hour. Every meter of grass now had to be fought for. And then came Messi.
The superstar, who passed the previous record holder Lothar Matthäus with his 26th World Cup appearance, scored the third Argentina goal. But Mbappe hit back again.