A World Cup final for the ages delivered a crowning glory for soccer icon Lionel Messi on Sunday as Argentina beat reigning men’s champion France on penalty kicks.
One of the most dramatic major sporting events in history saw the teams tied 3-3 after extra time, with the French ultimately missing twice in the shootout before Gonzalo Montiel converted to seal an exhausting and emotional victory.
Argentina had dominated the bulk of the match, leading 2-0 with just about 10 minutes to go, but France suddenly burst into life with star forward Kylian Mbappé scoring twice in as many minutes. Both sides traded missed chances and then late goals again in the 30 minutes of extra time before the tension of penalty kicks.
The game capped a month of sporting drama and geopolitical controversy in Qatar. The tournament featured surprise results and fairy-tale runs, but the final saw two giants of the game compete for the title — headlined by a pair of diminutive stars.
Mbappé solidified his claim as the young pretender to Messi’s throne, with the speedy and skillful forward scoring a hat-trick as France came so close to being the first team to go back-to-back since Brazil in 1962.
But ultimately it was Messi who took the glory, securing the trophy that cements his status as perhaps the game’s greatest ever player as the 35-year-old bows out on the global stage by sealing a third title for his soccer-mad nation.
The Argentine soccer legend Lionel Messi was awarded the Golden Ball, recognizing him as the tournament’s most outstanding player.
Moments after being given that honor, Messi kissed the World Cup.
Teammates mobbed the great Lionel Messi moments after the winning kick, knowing he can no longer be be dogged by the one trophy not on his mantle.
Despite being a seven-time Ballon d’Or winner and a member of 10 La Liga championship teams and four UEFA Champions League winning sides, fans back home in Argentina had long held that missing World Cup trophy against him.
Argentina won last year’s Copa America, but fans weren’t satisfied until Sunday when Messi’s side won the sport’s ultimate prize.
Argentina thwarts France in thrilling World Cup final
Doha MadaniArgentina players celebrate the fourth and winning penalty by Gonzalo Montiel in the penalty shootout during the World Cup final against France on Dec. 18, in Lusail City, Qatar.Julian Finney / Getty Images
Argentina has defeated France, the returning champion, in a dramatic match that gives the South American country its first title since 1986.
Sunday’s final was a battle of wills as the competitors met each other shot for shot well into extra time, until Argentina ended France’s hope for a consecutive win in penalty kicks.
Argentina took an early lead, scoring two goals in the first half. France was thoroughly outplayed and was consistently on the defensive but rallied in the second half and in extra time.
Lionel Messi, Argentina’s captain, has taken his first World Cup title in what is likely to be the 35-year-old’s last appearance in the tournament. He solidified an incredible legacy as fans debate whether Messi is the greatest player of all time.
But he met his match in Kylian Mbappé, France’s young upstart, who tied the game twice. The 23-year-old scored three goals in addition to a penalty kick, earning him the Golden Boot.
ARGENTINA WINS THE WORLD CUP
Max BurmanArgentina’s Gonzalo Montiel celebrates after the decisive penalty during the World Cup final against France in Lusail, Qatar, on Dec. 18.Frank Augstein / AP
Gonzalo Montiel converts his penalty and a dramatic final is won by Lionel Messi and his team!
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