In a game that will be remembered as the best World Cup final ever, Argentina defeated France on Sunday to be crowned the planet’s best soccer team. Here are three things we learned.
If drama is what you were looking for at the World Cup final, then you got that and more.
In a game that had been hyped as epic turned out to be just that on Sunday when Argentina outlasted France 4-2 in a penalty-kick shootout to lift the trophy.
The sides had played to a 3-3 draw after extra time in a game highlighted by comebacks and a fierce duel between Lionel Messi and his PSG teammate Kylian Mbappe.
Highlighted by a dominating Argentine opening half and a late French comeback (twice!), it was ultimately the Albiceleste who prevailed at Lusail Stadium on the edge of Qatar’s capital Doha as 89,000 fans inside and over a billion TV viewers around the world watched in amazement at this instant classic.
A match not for the weak of heart (especially after Argentina had built a 2-0 lead with 10 minutes left to play and went up 3-2 in extra time), it was yet another reminder that no lead was secure at this World Cup.
Here are three things we learned from what will be remembered as one of the most entertaining finals ever.
Messi masterclass makes him the GOAT
It was now-or-never and Messi delivered. Ninety minutes prior to kick off, the stadium scoreboard replayed Diego Maradona’s goals from Argentina’s ’86 title run. While most fans still hadn’t made it to their seats, it wasn’t like they needed reminding. The “Maradona-is-better-than-Messi” debate has gone on for years and only intensified in the days before the final.
The 35-year-old Messi capped off his once-in-a-generation career with two goals in this game and the World Cup, the trophy that he hadn’t been able to win until now. The result was a coronation for a player who can now argue that he is the GOAT, not only surpassing Maradona, but also the legendary Pele on the list of all-time greats.
Mbappe a future GOAT
It had been billed as a clash between Messi and Mbappe and that’s what it turned out to be. Not to be outdone, Mbappe, absent from the match in the opening half, netted a hat trick to keep French hopes alive. With little support, Mbappe never really got into the game until he scored a penalty kick 10 minutes from time, then added a second a minute later to draw France level and push the game to extra time.
Mbappe’s smirk soon turned into a big smile. The Albiceleste’s defense silenced Mbappe for long stretches , but it was the Frenchman’s late-game heroics that temporarily muzzled the pro-Argentina crowd. In the end, he was done in by the shootout. Mbappe is just 23. He has the quality, and the time, to chase Messi.
French (records) toast
Les Bleus were chasing history in this final. They were attempting to become the first team in 60 years (not since Brazil in 1962) to win back-to-back World Cups.
In doing so, manager Didier Deschamps would have matched Italy’s Vittorio Pozzo as the only coach to win two straight titles. Pozzo did it with Italy in 1934 and ‘38. At the same time, goalie Hugo Lloris would have been the only man to captain a team to two straight World Cups.
None of it happened. Instead, we have a new World Cup champion as Argentina fans continue to celebrate across the planet at their first World Cup title in 36 years.