Up 2-0 after the first 45 minutes, Argentina seemed well on their way to winning the 2022 World Cup. Lionel Messi and his team were playing an almost perfect game.
France had no answer for the surprise inclusion of Angel Di Maria and if “x wanted it more” could be visually displayed, it was the way Argentina was playing. They had a plan and executing it to perfection. But they were also more determined and first to every loose ball. In essence, despite the 2-0 scoreline, the match felt lopsided.
Once Di Maria was subbed off for Marcos Acuña, things changed.
A clumsy challenge from Nicolas Otamendi on Kylian Mbappe led to a penalty, which the PSG star tucked away despite Emi Martinez getting a hand to it.
Moments after the restart, Kingsley Coman cleanly dispossessed Messi which led to Mbappe volleying a cross inside the edge of the box and stunningly bringing France level. In two minutes, Mbappe erased the dismal display by France up until that point.
Lautaro Martinez had a pair of opportunities in added time to win it for Argentina but it wasn’t meant to be. The match went into extra time.
In the second half of extra time, Messi scored his second of the match, following up a rebound after a rifled shot from Martinez was stopped by Hugo Lloris. Pandemonium erupted as there was some confusion at first as to whether the goal stood. But it did and it felt like Argentina were finally on their way to the title.
Minutes later however, a penalty was awarded to France after a clear handball. Mbappe stepped up and converted his second penalty of the day, cementing his hat-trick.
Both teams had a chance to end it before penalties with Emi Martinez the hero on one end and Lautaro Martinez the villain in the other. The Aston Villa keeper made a great save from point blank range which led to a break on the other with Lautaro being fed a cross and having an open header. His attempt went well wide which meant the World Cup final was to be decided via penalty.
Mbappe and Messi stepped up, respectively, and scored their team’s first attempt. Coman, who was vital in setting up the equalizer in the second half of regulation, saw his effort saved. After Argentina scored their second, Aurélien Tchouaméni’s shot was saved. Kolo Muani scored his to keep France alive.
Gonzalo Montiel stepped up with the opportunity to give Argentina their first World Cup since 1986. Montiel did just that as both Argentina and Lionel Messi’s long quest for a World Cup title was over.
The 2022 World Cup final in Qatar had a little bit of everything. Wonderful goals, wonderful saves and the two best players in the form of Messi and Mbappe putting on a show and putting their respective teams on their back. In the end, there could only be one winner and that was Messi and Argentina.
A World Cup title that gave Messi the one title that had eluded him and the one some believed he needed to be considered the best men’s soccer player of all time. He’s done it and that debate can finally be put to rest.