Lionel Messi’s dream of winning the FIFA World Cup finally materialised on Sunday at Lusail Stadium with Argentina surviving a few anxious moments to register a fighting 4-2 penalty shoot win over defending champions France.
At the end of the full-time play the teams were locked two all and both the teams added a goal apiece in the extra time to make it three all and take the title clash into a penalty shoot-out.
In the tie-breaker, Kylan Mbappe opened the scoring for France but the subsequent kicks found the French players failing to beat Martinez in the Argentinian goal, one being saved by the keeper and one off the mark.
Although Kolo Mani scored for France it was not enough as their rivals were successful in all four kicks.
For Argentina, Messi scored first followed by his three teammates to give their captain a perfect farewell present as the 35-year-old has said the Qatar World Cup will be his last one.
With the pre-match talk centring around Mbappe and Messi and their big role in the final and they did not disappoint — Mbappe scored a hattrick while Messi scored two goals in the match.
Six goals, three from the penalty spot and a lot of extra time drama kept the nearly 90,000 fans on their toes and took the match into a penalty shoot-out.
Messi scored a goal in the 109th minute to give Argentina the lead for the second time in the match but Mbappe scored his third and the second with a spot-kick in the 118th minute to tie the scores at three-all.
The final saw two different aspects of the defending champion’s game. In the first half, they were literally passengers while they roared back to match their rivals late in the second half.
It also saw both teams opening the scoring from the penalty spot and both the key man for their respective teams making no mistakes to slam home from the 12-yard distance.
Argentina went into the lead in the 23rd minute through Messi and added a second one through Angel Di Maria to go into half-time leading 2 -0.
The Les Blues bounced back to draw level and fired their first goal adding a second one with Mbappe netting both goals in the 80th and 88th minute.
Argentina, returning to the same stadium where they began their tournament campaign and suffered a shocking 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia, were not the same side to the Asian side.
Having found fluency and understanding among themselves after playing six matches, the Argentinians were all over France’s defense.
Argentina had another advantage with thousands of their supporters chanting, singing and beating the drums to pump up their players.
Argentina started off well and took a couple of shots which landed straight to keeper Hugo Lloris. At the other end, France could manage just one shot at goal in the opening half.
In the first half, Argentina had made sure to cut the supply line to Mbappe with Antoine Griezmann nowhere functioning to the key role in the midfield for the French side.
Argentina on the other hand put to effective use Angel Di Maria on the left flank. Messi was repeatedly squaring or floating the ball to send some probing crosses deep inside France’s defence.
Watched by 89,966 spectators Argentina went into the lead through a spot kick conversion. The Polish referee pointed to the spot Di Maria was brought down inside the box.
Messi, who stepped up to take the kick, sent Lloris the wrong way to make it 1-0.
Argentina added a second one which started from Messi on the right after a couple of passes again came to him and the mercurial left-footed magician split open the defense with a deft touch for Di Maria to put Argentina 2-0.
Down by two goals, French coach Didier Deschamps made two changes close to half-time to bring in a change in fortunes.
Argentina continued to dictate terms but could not finish off the match with a third one as Lloris kept out a couple of goalbound shots.
The game came to life with the first of Mhappe’s two goals.
First, he converted from the penalty spot and then added a second one to make it 2-2.
There was more drama at both ends when France claimed a second spot kick but instead, the French striker got a yellow card from the referee.
At the other end, Lloris was called upon to bring off a brilliant save to tip over Messi’s elegant drive for a flag kick in injury-added time of the second half.
More goalmouth action followed at both ends with Argentina repulsing a few dangerous moves to take the match into extra time.
The extra time did not see the same level of fluency from Argentina and France too, who indulged in some clumsy tackles with the Polish referee time and again having to keep matters under control.
In the second half of extra time, Lloris once again brought off a save of Messi who create a chance out of nowhere.
But it was not long before the French keeper could not deny Argentina from scoring after keeping out a shot a first time, Lloris’ defence caved in the 109th minute of the match.