By Dwayne Ferreira
A fitting finish to a wonderful Qatari World Cup saw Argentina finally get their paws on a third World Cup title since 1986.
Lionel Messi and Argentina defeated a weak yet persistent French opposition in a final penalty shootout after a stunning hat-trick from Kylian Mbappe rescued Les Blues from an early two-goal deficit.
Kylian Mbappe sent shockwaves through the majority of thousands of sky blue and white fans at the Lusail Stadium, as he not once but twice equalized against Messi and the Albiceleste.
The South Americans however, were clearly the more dominant on the night and their built-up confidence throughout the 120 minutes of play helped in beating the 2018 World Cup champions in the closing stages on penalties.
Argentina and Lionel Messi were rightfully awarded with their fairytale ending after having overcome an almost catastrophic start to their campaign in the group stages and a few bumpy obstacles in the knockout rounds.
Lionel Messi was the star of the show yet again, scoring twice and becoming the first man to score in all four knockout stages of the World Cup.
The Paris Saint Germain talisman was able to give his side an early lead in the 27th minute with a well-struck penalty following a foul on Angel Di Maria by Barcelona’s Ousmane Dembele.
Di Maria then doubled Argentina’s lead with a goal ten minutes later thanks to a counter-attacking break from halfway, set up also by Lionel Messi.
Argentina was well on their way to an almost uncontested win over the reigning champs but unfortunately gave away a penalty in the 80th minute and sent Mbappe straight to the penalty spot.
Kylian was able to score France’s first goal of the night and suddenly Les Blues were wide awake and filled with newfound confidence.
Paris’ hero went on to then light up the eyes of many with an unbelievable right-foot volley into the bottom right corner just over a minute after scoring his first goal.
Tricolore fans filled the Stadium with long-awaited cheers and screams, as his brace was able to equalize a two-goal deficit and send the game straight into extra time.
Argentina and France then put on a show with outstanding displays of teamwork and individual brilliance, slogging away at each other until Lionel Messi finally made a breakthrough in the 108th minute.
Messi found himself on the end of a deflected shot that was initially saved by Hugo Lloris, and the Argentinian forward did not miss his opportunity to potentially see off the Europeans in extra time. His goal put him in joint first place for the golden boot alongside opponent Mbappe with 7 goals each.
Unfortunately for Messi, France was awarded yet another penalty due to a handball in the 118th minute and Kylian Mbappe was sent to the spot for the second.
Mbappe calmly banged in France’s third goal of the night to equalize the game three all, while also going one goal above Lionel in the race for the golden boot.
Mbappe’s hat trick sent the game into a shootout but France’s surprise burst of luck soon ran out and Argentina evidently walked away victorious in the Final of the World Cup.
Their South American grit and sheer determination outplayed the French both mentally and physically in the shootout, while Argentina’s goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez was also able to use this to his advantage and force a save, and a wide shot out of the French.
Four of the confident Albiceleste penalty takers scored all their shots past France’s goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and ended France’s well fought dream of winning two World Cups in a row.
Qatar ended the most controversial FIFA World Cup with a stunning closing ceremony that did the Middle Eastern nation and FIFA justice following a well organized tournament full of thrills and spills.
FIFA president and Qatar’s Emir awarded the best player on the planet and eight-time Ballon D’Or with his first-ever World Cup title in grand Qatari fashion while also handing over Argentina’s first World Cup title in 36 years.
Argentina’s Enzo Fernandez was awarded the FIFA Young Player Award while Emiliano Martinez received the Golden Glove Award for his heroics throughout the tournament.
Kylian Mbappe was awarded the Golden Boot for his total of 8 goals while Lionel Messi walked away with the Golden Ball for best player of the World Cup.
This will probably be the last time fans see Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria grace a World Cup stage but the pair have certainly said goodbye to the World in the best way possible.
Qatari’s and Argentinian fans continued to cheer the victory late into the windy desert night, while fans back in Argentina wait patiently for the Jules Rimet Trophy to make its way home to Buenos Aires until 2026.