FIFA World Cup: Messi seals his legacy, Argentina crowned World Champs

Lionel Messi bids adieu to football’s world stage with his elusive prize. But the focus now shifts to his PSG teammate Kylian Mbappe, who almost derailed the Argentine’s quest

NEW DELHI | Updated: 19 December, 2022 1:57 am IST
Argentina won their third World Cup crown (Photo Courtesy Twitter @FIFAWorldCup)

For a man who played 1003 games, scored 793 goals, and won seven Ballon d’Or awards, it was sometimes perplexing that for many football fans, Lionel Messi’s greatness is defined by one title that eluded him for a long time.

Perhaps that is what the Football World Cup is all about. It has an irresistible allure that bridges the divide caused by club football.

Lionel Messi fulfilled a long-held dream of his and his legions of fans who transcend geographical and political divides by helping Argentina win the FIFA World Cup for the third time.

Argentina’s hard-fought 4-2 wins in penalties not only ended their 36-year wait but also sealed Messi’s legacy as one of the greatest players of the game – if not the greatest player.

Lionel Messi seals his greatness with the World Cup crown  (Photo Courtesy Twitter @FIFAWorldCup)

 

With Cristiano Ronaldo virtually consumed by his passion – and his desire to be the best – the stage is now set for the generation next to begin the quest for the next G.O.A.T.

And one need not look far, as France’s Kylian Mbappe showed he is undoubtedly far ahead of his competition. Despite a largely indifferent performance in the final, Mbappe’s hat trick kept defending champion France’s hopes of a second consecutive title alive, and threatened to derail his PSG teammate’s quest for immortality.

Undoubtedly, Mbappe will resume his quest for glory soon, on Sunday, his hattrick ensured a 2-2 draw after the regulation time, which settled with a 3-3 draw after the extra time at the Lusail stadium.

Stage is now set for Kylian Mbappe to build his legacy (Photo Courtesy Twitter @FIFAWorldCup)

 

Though Mbappe’s one-man show helped him come out of Messi’s shadow, it could not overshadow the Argentine’s sublime performance in the tournament.

Earlier, Argentina’s bright start was rewarded when Messi gave them the lead with yet another goal from the penalty spot. Messi kept his calm as he beat his French counterpart Hugo Lloris from the penalty spot in the 21st minute after Ousmane Dembele made contact with Angel Di Maria in the box.

After creating an opportunity for his skipper, Di Maria swung into action with a sublime performance that helped Argentina to a 2-0 lead in the 36th minute.

Smiles on the faces of Argentina supporters speak volume (Photo Courtesy Twitter @FIFAWorldCup)

 

Stunned, particularly by his frontline, which had some excellent performances in the tournament but failed to find a shot on target in the first half, French coach Didier Deschamps made a double change before half-time, bringing in Marcus Thuram and Randal Kolo Muani.

The decision to replace in-form Oliver Giroud and Ousmane Dembele had a telling impact on France, but their struggle continued.

After some struggle in the second half, France’s fortunes turned when Argentine veteran Nicolas Otamendi dragged down Kolo Muani and Mbappe stepped in to close the gap from the start.

The goal appeared to have triggered a new vigour as Mbappe levelled up moments later with a powerful volley from Marcus Thuram’s pass.

Argentina appeared to have won it in extra time when Messi reacted quickest to a saved Lautaro Martinez attempt, but his Paris Saint-Germain teammate Kylian Mbappe equalises through a penalty after his shot hit Gonzalo Montiel on the arm.

In the resultant shootout, goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez saved Kingsley Coman’s attempt and saw Aurelien Tchouameni fire wide. Montiel converted the winning spot-kick to clinch a 4-2 shoot-out victory for Argentina at the end of a thriller.

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