Messi, Argentina Top France in World Cup Final for the Ages

Penalty kicks decide champion after Mbappe scores hat trick in losing cause
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 18, 2022 1:24 PM CST
Updated Dec 18, 2022 3:22 PM CST
Messi, Argentina Top France in World Cup Final for the Ages
Argentina's goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez celebrates after saving a penalty during the shootout Sunday.   (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

In what analysts are calling one of the most exciting finals in World Cup history, highlighted by exceptional performances by the teams' biggest stars, Argentina defeated France on Sunday on penalty kicks to take soccer's championship for the third time. The shootout won 4-2 by Argentina took place after 90 minutes of play in regulation and 30 minutes of extra time that left the sides tied 3-3, CNN reports. France, attempting to be the first champion to repeat in 60 years, fell short despite a hat trick by Kylian Mbappé—the first in a final since 1966, per the New York Times.

The victory was the crowning touch on the career of superstar Lionel Messi, who was almost certainly playing in his last World Cup, putting him with the sport's greatest players ever, per the AP: countryman Diego Maradona and Brazil's Pele. Messi, 35, scored twice Sunday during play and again in the shootout. After the game, Messi was awarded the Golden Ball award as the best player of the tournament in Qatar; Mbappé received the Golden Boot award for being the top scorer, with eight goals. In addition to both sides' individual heroics, Argentina put together a scoring play like few others in World Cup history, per the Times: five quick passes in moving the length of the field, involving Alexis Mac Allister and Julián Álvarez with one perfect touch by Messi, then finished by Angel Di Maria.

Messi said after the game that he may have played his last World Cup but not his last soccer match. "Obviously, I wanted to complete my career with this, can't ask for more," he said, per the AP. This victory came at "almost at the very end" of his career, Messi said. But he added that he loves soccer and being part of his national team. "I want to enjoy a couple of more matches being a world champion," he said. That's fine with Argentina's coach. "If he wants to keep playing, he can be with us," Lionel Scaloni said, "he is more than entitled to decide if he wants to stay with us."

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As the game ended, fans at a park in Buenos Aires mounted an intense celebration, then grew quiet to watch the trophy presentations, per the Times. When Messi was given the trophy, a 19-year-old said, "It's the closure we all needed." France accounted for more of the 88,966 fans at Lusail Stadium than Argentina, per the AP, and mostly were relatively quiet when their team was trailing. In a bar in Paris, per the Washington Post, patrons became briefly silent when the game ended. The bartender then put on jazz music. As they left, many said Argentina had earned the World Cup trophy. (More 2022 World Cup stories.)

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