Messi shines as Argentina breaks 36-year World Cup curse

Lionel Messi and Argentina won an all-time classic World Cup final despite Kylian Mbappe’s hat-trick leading France to a penalty shootout following a 3-3 draw on Sunday.

Gonzalo Montiel converted the winning penalty to secure Argentina’s 4-2 victory in a shootout at the end of a thrilling game at Lusail Stadium, in which goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez saved Kingsley Coman’s attempt and saw Aurelien Tchouameni shoot wide.

France, aiming to become the third team to retain the trophy, rallied from two goals into regulation after Mbappe converted an 81st-minute penalty and netted a delightful volley 97 seconds later.

Messi had opened the scoring, before Ángel Di María finished off an impressive counter-attacking play, and the Albiceleste number 10 restored his team’s lead on 108 minutes, only for Mbappé to respond again two minutes before the end of the game. the extension.

That drew penalties, with both Mbappé and Messi converting before Argentina gave their captain a proper World Cup send-off.

A brilliant start from Argentina was rewarded when Messi calmly beat Hugo Lloris from the penalty spot in the 21st minute after Ousmane Dembele made contact with Di María in the box.

Di María’s second goal was sublime, as Messi played a fine quick pass into the path of Julián Álvarez, who in turn played through Alexis Mac Allister to find the goalscorer on the other side.

But Didier Deschamps brought in Marcus Thuram and Randal Kolo Muani in a double substitution before halftime, and both players made a telling impact.

After initially struggling for much of the second half, France were awarded a penalty which Mbappe converted as Nicolás Otamendi brought down Kolo Muani.

Mbappé, a peripheral figure up to that point, then leveled moments later with a powerful passing volley from Thuram.

Messi again looked to have won it for Argentina in extra time when he reacted quicker to a save from Lautaro Martínez, only for his Paris Saint-Germain clubmate Mbappe to once again equalize from a penalty after his shot hit Montiel on the arm.

However, Montiel would have the last word with the help of Martínez, as Messi and Argentina ended their wait.

In a World Cup that saw a record 172 goals scored, surpassing the 171 scored in the 1998 and 2014 editions, this was a fitting finish in Qatar.

The game looked all but over with 10 minutes to go when France, who became the first team on record not to attempt a shot in the first half in a World Cup final, struggled to get going.

Mbappé managed to turn a rather one-sided final into a true epic, although it was not enough as Argentina, led by Messi, added to their previous titles won in 1978 and 1986.

Mbappé joins England’s 1966 hero Geoff Hurst as the only men to have scored a hat-trick in the World Cup final, scoring all three of his goals from six shots.

Not that it’s much consolation for the PSG star, but he ends the tournament as top scorer with eight goals, one more than Messi.

Messi may have been nearly eclipsed on an individual level by Mbappé, but he played more than his part in both this victory and Argentina’s triumph in the tournament.

Making his 26th, and final, appearance on the biggest stage of all, he became the first player to score in every round of the competition, while his 21 goals are the most by any player in Cup history. of the world.

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