The MESSIah! Argentina overcome epic comeback to claim World Cup glory in shootout thriller (2024)

Lionel Messi and Argentina are champions of the football world, beating 2018 victors France in a penalty shootout in Qatar despite Kylian Mbappe scoring a hat-trick.

In one of the greatest finals in World Cup history and just the third to be decided on penalties after extra time, Messi and Mbappe delivered a back-and-forth duel for the ages. The score was 2-2 at full-time, 3-3 after extra time, before finally being decided in Argentina’s favour 4-2 in the shootout.

Just days before his 24th birthday, French prodigy Mbappe scored just the second-ever hat-trick in a World Cup final to pip Messi to the golden boot with eight goals for the tournament.

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But it was the 35-year-old Argentine legend who reigned supreme, delivering his nation’s third World Cup triumph and first since Diego Maradona’s iconic 1986 campaign.

In his record-breaking 26th and likely final World Cup match, Messi scored twice in a masterful performance, before converting his nation’s opening penalty of the shootout.

Messi was also awarded the golden ball as the player of the tournament - his second - having played a crucial role in leading the team back from a stunning defeat to Saudi Arabia in their opening match of the tournament.

The South Americans ran riot in the first half to surge to a 2-0 lead before the reigning champions hit back at the death, with Mbappe first scoring a penalty then a clinical volley in the space of just 97 seconds.

35-year-old Lionel Messi scored the opening goal with a clinical strike from the penalty spot after Angel di Maria was clumsily brought down, before Di Maria capped off a sublime team move to double the lead in the 36th minute.

Then two goals in as many minutes from Kylian Mbappe clawed France back from the brink of defeat. In extra time, it was the great, irrepressible Messi who broke the deadlock first.

A quick passing exchange ended in Lautaro Martinez blasting a shot from a tight angle, but it was parried by Hugo Lloris.

However, Messi had raced into the six-yard box and tapped the ball home from hardly a metre from goal. It was cleared out of the goal by Jules Kounde, but it had already crossed the line. After a VAR check for a possible off-side, the goal was confirmed.

But Mbappe hit back once again four minutes from the end of extra time. Mbappe shot from the edge of the box but it was blocked by the arm of substitute Gonzalo Montiel. Mbappe took the resulting penalty and sent Emiliano Martinez the wrong way to secure his World Cup hat-trick.

Mbappe hit the first penalty of the shootout – despite Martinez getting a hand to it. Messi replied with an ice-cold penalty to the bottom left.

France’s Kingsley Coman saw his attempt saved by Martinez, before last-minute substitute Paulo Dybala struck down the middle. Then 20-year-old midfield sensation Aurelien Tchouameni curled his attempt wide of the upright. Hugo Lloris failed to save Leandro Paredes effort. Randal Kolo Muani blasted his strike down the middle to make it 3-2, before Montiel made amends for giving away the penalty in extra time by scoring the winner to seal the shootout 4-2.

Emiliano Martinez was awarded the golden glove for the goalkeeper of the tournament.

France looked completely off the pace from the first whistle – perhaps owing to the illness that has swept through the squad in recent days – while Argentina attacked with verve and confidence and defended with great intensity, harassing their opponents off the ball.

In the 23rd minute, Di Maria received a long ball on the left and raced into the area, sizing up opposite winger Ousmane Dembele and beating his man only to have his ankle clipped.

Messi converted the 12-yard chance in comfortable fashion, waiting for Lloris to dive to the other direction before burying the ball into the bottom right corner.

It was his sixth goal of the tournament, and also makes him the first player to have scored in every single stage of a World Cup – from the group stage all the way through to the decider.

13 minutes later, Messi began a sweeping counter-attack with a neat flick on the halfway line to striker Julian Alvarez, who fed Alexis Mac Allister behind the lines, before a perfect diagonal ball from Mac Allister to Di Maria inside the box was buried in style.

The rapid counter-attack tore France’s defence to shreds, but was merely the culmination of a remarkably one-sided first half as Messi and Di Maria delivered a virtuosic performance.

France failed to take a touch in the opposition area, let alone a shot, in the first half, while superstar attacker Kylian Mbappe managed just 11 touches of the ball, the fewest of any starting outfielder.

France coach Didier Deschamps even made a radical double substitution in the 40th minute, removing ineffective attacking duo Olivier Giroud and Ousmane Dembele – the latter having given away the penalty with some atrocious defending against di Maria.

Ex-England defender Rio Ferdinand told BBC One: “Argentina are just bullying France in there. They are far more aggressive, the tenacity, they look hungrier and when they have had the opportunities, they have been absolutely clinical so far.”

Indeed, it was not until the 67th minute that France managed to take a shot, such was Argentina’s control over proceedings and exceptional game management in the second stanza.

But France roared back to life when impressive substitute Kolo Muani raced into the box and was dragged down by Nicolas Otamendi in the 80th minute.

With regular penalty taker Antoine Griezmann substituted, Mbappe took the resulting penalty and buried it into the bottom left corner, despite Emiliano Martinez getting a hand on the ball.

97 seconds later Mbappe stunned Argentina again when Mbappe played a neat headed one-two with Marcus Thuram. When the ball came back his way, Mbappe lashed the ball in a furious first-time volley across goal.

Once again Martinez got a hand to the shot but was unable to prevent the goal.

Both sides had chances in the first half of extra time, with Argentina twice coming close in the dying seconds of that period. France centre-back Dayot Upamecano made a desperate sliding save to deny substitute Lautaro Martinez, before Martinez was again denied by an intervention from Upamecano after racing through on goal.

In the second period of extra time, Lionel Messi slipped Martinez into space on the right side after a neat triangle of passing. Martinez slammed the ball from a close angle but it was parried by Lloris only into the path of Messi in the six yard box, who bundled it over the line – though it needed confirmation from VAR over a potential off-side in the build-up.

Argentina needed only to hold on for ten minutes to claim glory, but could not quite do so – and it was Mbappe, of course, who struck.

After a corner was half cleared, Mbappe picked up the ball on the edge of the area and curled a shot toward goal – and into the elbow of Gonzalo Montiel.

Mbappe nailed the resulting penalty to seal his hat-trick.

Both teams made changes in the dying seconds with the shootout in mind, but it nearly didn’t go that far – with Emiliano Martinez forced to make a brilliant save in stoppage time to deny Kolo Muani, and Lautaro Martinez missing a header at the other end.

Then, in penalties, Kingsley Coman had his penalty saved and Aurelien Tchouameni sent his wide to the left, and Argentina were crowned champions.

Speaking after the match, France keeper Hugo Lloris described it as a boxing match.

“It was like a boxing match, we went blow for blow,” he said.

“We didn’t give up. We needed a winner and it was decided on penalties. That’s always cruel. We are empty.” Lloris was beaten by all four Argentine penalties in the shootout, including one from Messi who had already scored twice in the game.

“We could have let it slip at 2-0 but we continued to believe that we could turn the game around,” added Lloris, who will turn 36 later this month.

“We must congratulate Argentina who played a great tournament and a great final.”

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TEAM NEWS

Argentina made just one change from the starting side of their 3-0 semi-final win over Croatia, with winger Angel di Maria replacing Leandro Paredes.

Di Maria had battled injuries throughout the tournament, but makes his first start since the group stage. It is an extremely attacking move and will likely see a formation change.

France made two changes from their victorious semi-final team, with Dayot Upamecano replacing Liverpool centre-back Ibrahima Konate and Adrien Rabiot returning to the centre of midfield in place of Youssouf Fofana.

Both missed the semi-final with a mystery virus that swept through the squad.

But Konate impressed in that match, in comparison to Upamecano’s dire performance against England in the quarterfinals.

TEAMS

Argentina (4-3-3): Emiliano Martinez; Nahuel Molina, Cristian Romero, Nicolas Otamendi, Nicolas Tagliafico; Rodrigo De Paul, Enzo Fernandez, Alexis Mac Allister; Angel Di Maria, Lionel Messi (capt), Julian Alvarez

Coach: Lionel Scaloni (ARG)

France (4-3-3): Hugo Lloris (capt); Jules Kounde, Raphael Varane, Dayot Upamecano, Theo Hernandez; Antoine Griezmann, Aurelien Tchouameni, Adrien Rabiot; Ousmane Dembele, Olivier Giroud, Kylian Mbappe

Coach: Didier Deschamps (FRA)

Referee: Szymon Marciniak (POL)

The MESSIah! Argentina overcome epic comeback to claim World Cup glory in shootout thriller (2024)

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