World Cup Championship 2022
MANILA, Philippines — The 2022 World Cup is off to a terrible start for Argentina. A shocking opener loss against Saudi Arabia – and the whispers soon began.
Is this it?
Will Lionel Messi end his glorious career without winning a World Cup?
The stats were clear. Losing the first game in group play makes advancing to the knockout stage almost impossible. Argentina not only passed but won the group, kept winning and never stopped.
With a 3:3 (4:2 penalties) win over defending champions France, Lionel Messi could call himself World Champion in perhaps his last World Cup game. It was his third title for Argentina, and tears and cheers replaced early whispers.
Argentina started the match against France with aggression and relentless attacks. The Frenchman, who dominated throughout the tournament, struggled to find the rhythm, cohesion and energy he showed in Qatar.
Argentina’s attack paid off midway through the first half. Argentinian striker Ángel Di Maria shot Frenchman Ousmane Dembélé stumbled in the box and earned a penalty.
No doubt would take it. Lionel Messi has played in his 26th World Cup game (the most in the men’s tournament), and from the French goalkeeper, he headed his spot for a penalty 12 meters away. He drove it down and to the right with a deep breath and steady tapping. 1-0
With this goal, Messi became the first man to score in all World Cup knockout round matches in a single tournament (round of 16, quarter-finals, semi-finals and final).
The South Americans still needed to be finished. In the 36th minute, Argentina cut through the French defense in midfield. Only Di María created another chance for him with two crisp passes. He took a shot inside the penalty area and fell French keeper Hugo Loris, 2-0.
After the goal, Di María trotted back to the Argentinian side of the field and wiped away his tears.
France seemed out of place. Coach Didier Deschamps made an unimaginable move by substituting two regular players in the first half. Dembélé (whose foul led to the first goal) and Olivier Giroud, the all-time French leader.
At halftime, defending champions, France looked shocked. French star Kylian Mbappé showed almost nothing in the first 45 minutes of the match.
Mbappé shined at the 2018 World Cup at age 19. There were plenty of comparisons to another teenager with a great football pedigree: Pelé (In 2018, Mbappé became the first teenager to score a goal in a World Cup final since Pelé in 1958). In the 2022 tournament, Mbappé picked up where he left off.
He set another World Cup record. With 12 goals in total, he surpassed Pele’s record for an under-24 player. Mbappé scored eight goals for Qatar to advance to the final level, with Messi in total goals. But against Argentina, Mbappé was mostly silent, which says something. His first recorded shot came in the 71st minute.
The approximately 89,000 crowds at Lusail Stadium were overwhelmingly pro-Argentine, mostly wearing the team’s signature white and sky blue jerseys. It was electricity. They celebrated every touch, every pass, every shot.
But in the 80th minute, Mbappé cut Argentina’s lead in half with a penalty to make it 2-1. France was muted for the entire game. Calmly. Unsure. But then the game’s energy changed as France began to show vigor.
And incredible, 93 seconds later, Mbappé did it again. He leveled the scores with a stunning right-footed shot to Argentine goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez. 2-2.
This is the French team that everyone expects in the championship. It ended up being Messi vs Mbappé. One of the greatest players of all time, the 35-year-old meets the 23-year-old who continues to build an impressive football pedigree.
Teams played an additional 9 minutes in regulation and 8 minutes in stoppage time. Neither could score, forcing 30 minutes of extra time.
Argentina has been here before. Germany lost her 2014 World Cup final when Germany scored in extra time to win 1–0.
This time it was Argentina who scored in extra time. And there was no question as to who would take it. Of course, Lionel Messi. The ball bounces in front of the French goal, and Messi takes the shot, 109 minutes. That was his second goal of the night, 3-2.
Of course, that score doesn’t hold up. France attempted another penalty due to a handling call in Argentina’s penalty area. And, of course, Mbappé. He scored in the 118th minute. He scored a hat-trick for the young French star 3-3.
Both sides fought in the final minutes. But it would be a penalty shootout to end what is perhaps the greatest World Cup final in history.
Argentina had an early advantage. After penalties from Mbappé and Messi, the Argentinian prevented French Kingsley from his Coman attempt. Aurélien Tchouaméni then missed his try. Argentina’s Gonzalo Montiel scored the winning penalty. Tears, hugs and smiles for Messi and all of Argentina.
The last time Argentina won a World Cup was in 1986 when Diego Maradona overshadowed Messi.
The 2022 World Cup belongs to Argentina. This is his third title for Argentina and the first for Lionel Messi. For the first time, he can call himself a world champion. It was his last chance. His resume is now full.
You may also like: