Lionel Messi finally wins FIFA World Cup despite Mbappe’s hat-trick
Lionel Messi led Argentina to a stunning World Cup victory, beating defending champions France 4-2 on penalties after an enthralling 3-3 draw over 120 minutes.
In a game that will go down in history as one of the greats, France twice came from behind to send the game to penalties. Although Messi will take the headlines, Kylian Mbappe was the first player to score a hat-trick in a World Cup final after Sir Geoff Hurst for England in 1966.
Di Maria’s inclusion over Leonardo Parades was the only change for Argentina from the semifinal victory over Croatia. France made two changes as Dayot Upamecano and Adrien Rabiot started after missing their semifinal win against Morocco with a virus that impacted the French squad for the past week.
Argentina dominated for the opening 80 minutes and looked to be cruising to their first World Cup title since 1986. Messi fired his side ahead from the penalty spot in the 23rd minute after Ousmane Dembele was judged to have tripped Angel Di Maria – although it looked to be a soft decision.
Juventus winger Di Maria added Argentina’s second after a fine sweeping move – spearheaded by Brighton’s Alexis Mac Allister – as France looked to be suffering from the effects of illness in camp during the week.
But Les Bleus came roaring back into the tie when they were handed a lifeline in the 79th minute as the impressive Randal Kolo Muani was tripped by Nicolas Otamendi. Mbappe scored from the spot for his first of the evening, before adding a stunning second just 90 seconds later to take the game to extra time.
Messi thought he had won it for his side as his rebounded strike was given by goal-line technology in the 108th minute. But, with mere minutes to play, France was awarded another penalty after Gonzalo Montiel was penalised for handball.
Mbappe stepped up for a second time and once again beat Emiliano Martinez, hauling France back into the tie for a second time and sending the game to penalties. The 23-year-old took the first kick of the shootout – netting his third of the evening – before Messi replied.
But Kingsley Coman and Aurelien Tchouameni both missed their spot kicks for France as Argentina netted each of their remaining three, with Montiel firing home the winning penalty to win the 2022 World Cup.
France was second best for almost 80 minutes of the game but will have questioned the awarding of Argentina’s penalty in the 21st minute. Di Maria dinked easily past Dembele and into the area, with the Frenchman barely grazing his foot before the Juventus winger went tumbling to the ground. There was no VAR review of the referee’s decision to award the penalty.
There was little doubt who would take the spot kick. It was lined up and expertly dispatched by Messi – rifling the ball past Hugo Lloris – as the blue and white shirts dominating the stands were sent into raptures.
Argentina continued to dominate against a sluggish France, and it was a special goal to make it 2-0. Messi started the move, flicking the ball to Julian Alvarez on the halfway line. He then spotted the run of Brighton’s Mac Allister, who drove forward with plenty of space, before squaring to Di Maria on his left. The winger then made no mistake in slotting home.
That was all Didier Deschamps needed to see from his side. Giroud and Dembele were both hooked in the 41st minute, replaced by Marcus Thuram and Kolo Muani, and were out far earlier than Argentina for the second half.
Argentina continued to see the better of the chances after the break, with Alvarez and Mac Allister linking up nicely going forward. France finally registered their first effort on goal in the 67th minute with Kolo Muani nodding a corner wide.
But the drama was yet to really get started as France was handed a lifeline with a penalty in the 79th minute. Kolo Munai was fouled by Otamendi, who was on the wrong side of his man and brought him down.
As with Argentina’s penalty, there was only one man for the job as Mbappe stepped up. Emiliano Martinez – who had not needed to make a save in the game until that point – did get a hand to it, but the penalty had too much power.
In echoes of the quarter-final against the Netherlands, Argentina was pegged back to 2-2 mere seconds later. It was a stunning finish from Mbappe, playing a quick one-two with Kolo Muani before sending a stunning volley home to complete France’s turnaround.
Messi could have won it for Argentina in the seventh of eight added minutes. He hit a swerving volley goalwards, but a leaping Lloris pushed the ball over the crossbar as the game headed into extra time.
Argentina went the closest to taking the lead during the added period. At the end of the first half, Lautaro Martinez’s strike was sensationally blocked by Dayot Upamecano before Montiel’s effort from range was nodded over. Martinez tried his luck again soon after, but he poked the ball wide.
Martinez was involved again as Messi fired Argentina back in front in the second half of extra time. The Inter Milan forward forced a sublime save from Lloris, but Messi was lurking for the rebound. He fired goalwards, with Jules Kounde clearing from deep inside the net. There were a few seconds of nerves as the referee consulted his goal-line technology watch before awarding the goal.
But in a game that epitomised the drama of football, France was awarded a second penalty with four minutes of extra time to play. Mbappe let fly from the edge of the area, but a jumping Montiel blocked it with an outstretched arm. The French forward lined the spot kick up once again, dispatching past Martinez, as the game went to a penalty shootout.
The two stars of the show – Mbappe and Messi – scored the first two penalties. But Martinez denied Coman before Tchouameni sent his effort wide. Paulo Dybala and Leandro Parades had scored theirs in between before Kolo Muani also found the net for France.
Montiel stepped up to take Argentina’s fourth and ultimately final penalty to see them win their first World Cup title in 36 years, immortalising Messi in football history.