World Cup final: Messi joins football’s immortals as Argentina beat France in penalty shootout
Lionel Messi is celebrating a dream, career-defining World Cup triumph as Argentina won the most dramatic final in history on penalties after Kylian Mbappe’s hat-trick had kept holders France alive.
After 63 matches and a thrilling month of action, Sunday’s breathless finale was the wildest conclusion anyone could have imagined to the first finals held in the Middle East and Arab world.
Messi came to Qatar looking to crown a glittering career by leading Argentina to a third World Cup triumph and managed just that after a staggering 3-3 draw ending in a 4-2 shootout victory against France.
Emiliano Martinez denied Kingsley Coman before Aurelien Tchouameni failed with his effort, with Gonzalo Montiel striking the decider to spark wild celebrations at Lusail Stadium.
Messi converted his effort in the shootout having opened the scoring yesterday with a first-half penalty that was quickly complemented by Angel Di Maria’s fine goal against meek France, only for Mbappe to spark them to life.
The 23-year-old scored twice in 97 seconds to take match beyond 90 minutes and became the second player to score a final hat-trick when cancelling out what had looked to be an extra-time winner by Argentina’s captain.
But this was Messi’s final. This was Messi’s tournament – one that ended with him lifting the trophy aloft at the same ground where they suffered a humiliating loss to Saudi Arabia just 26 days ago.
The 35-year-old’s fifth and final appearance at this stage ended in glory as he captained them to their first World Cup triumph since the late, great Diego Maradona did so in 1986.