Friday, July 19, 2024

Greatest ever World Cup final makes you feel sorry for people who don’t like football

It will go down as the greatest World Cup final of all time.

And after the most incredible football match you will ever see, Lionel Messi should also be crowned the greatest player of all time.

Even above Pele and Diego Maradona because not even those legends produced a game like this. A blockbuster which will go down as one of the greatest sporting occasions of all time, never mind just football.

And at the heart of it all, there was a straight shoot-out between Messi and the man who would be king in Kylian Mbappe who, somehow, scored a hat trick and still finished up on the losing side.

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Messi, 35, scored twice, including the winner and a penalty in the shoot-out which just epitomised his sheer brilliance.

With the eyes of the world watching on, Messi casually strode up, gave Hugo Lloris the eyes and then gently rolled the ball into the net while the France captain looked on in despair.

Messi was magical and mesmerising but also unbeatable because when France staged the most remarkable of comebacks, there was Argentina’s No10 to save his country again.

Argentina keeper Emiliano Martinez produced more heroics in the shoot-out, Angel Di Maria had a brilliant game and yet the huge army of blue and white fans shouted Messi’s name over and over again.

You had to see it to believe it as 88,966 fans in the Lusail Stadium looked on in pure wonder and amazement. And to think, some people don’t even like football.

It was Argentina’s third World Cup but Messi’s first as it is the one trophy that has eluded him in his incredible career. And he won it in his last ever World Cup match.

Fairytales do not get any better. It deserves to be remembered as the Messi World Cup just as 1986 was for Maradona and Pele in 1970.

Messi has written his name all over this tournament. Somehow Argentina went from losing their opening Group match to Saudi Arabia to ruling the world.

And at times, Messi and Argentina made France look ordinary and you were left wondering what on earth was wrong with Didier Deschamps’ men until Mbappe showed up, scored twice to take it to extra time when he then completed his hat trick to send it to penalties.

This was Mbappe leading France single-handedly up against Messi who was just not prepared to stand aside as the greatest just yet.

You almost ended up forgetting that Argentina stormed into a 2-0 lead. Argentina went ahead after 21 minutes after France winger Ousmane Dembele clumsily tripped Di Maria to concede a penalty. Messi stepped up and made no mistake.

Then Argentina scored an all time classic World Cup final goal. France defender Dayot Upamecano gave the ball away and Argentina then put together a fabulous five man move.

Nahuel Molina won it. Messi flicked it to Julian Alvarez and Alexis Mac Allister kept running before providing an inch perfect pass for Di Maria who fired past Lloris. Di Maria was a surprise choice on the left but an inspired one.

Deschamps took off Dembele and Olivier Giroud before half time and brought on Marcus Thuram and Randal Kolo Muani. Still there was nothing until Argentina defender Nicolas Otamendi pressed the self destruct button with a clumsy challenge on Muani.

Mbappe smashed it home and it was game on. Just 97 seconds later, France were level as Mbappe swapped passes with Thuram and then smashed home a stunning volley for his second to take it to extra time.

Then it looked like we had a winner. Messi led another attack, Lautaro Martinez saw his shot palmed away by Lloris and there was Messi to bundle it in.

But still more drama. Mbappe saw his shot blocked by Gonzalo Montiel’s arm and it was another penalty. Mbappe smashed home after 118 minutes. Still time for Martinez to deny Thuram with a super save before penalties.

Mbappe and Messi scored the first spot kicks. Paulo Dybala and Leandro Paredes were successful for Argentina. Kolo Muani scored for France but Martinez saved brilliantly from Kingsley Coman while Aurélien Tchouamen missed.

Up stepped Montiel to fire home the decisive kick, win the final for Argentina and write Messi’s name into folklore.

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