FLOW Qatar Spotlight | Messi and the dream, Mbappé the anti-hero we love
Scaloni, the unsung hero in the Messi fairytale
In a game where Kylian Mbappé scored a hat-trick, he still found himself a loser. That loss meant his dream of giving his beloved France, back-to-back titles ended, but the 23-year-old will be back.
On the other side of the coin, stands Lionel Messi, the greatest player of all time. There is no football title he has not won, but saying that took nearly 20 years, interspersed with four previous disappointments.
Now, the little magician can hold up his hand to say he’s done it all. Messi scored twice in a 3-3 draw and tucked away Argentina’s first penalty, watched as his teammates scored theirs and goalkeeper Emi Martinez came to Argentina’s rescue to ensure he would have the chance to hold aloft a trophy that has eluded him for nearly two decades.
While all the plaudits go to Messi for his immense contribution to this team’s World Cup win, I must take a moment, not to recognise Mbappé for his contribution to a wonderful World Cup final, but to recognise Lionel Scaloni.
The coach who, before taking over the role as Argentina boss, had never coached at any serious level and should have been overwhelmed by a dressing room with talent like Messi. Instead, he earned the trust and belief of a very talented team and so was able to make the decisions he thought best without concern for backlash. He handled the pressure admirably and as an area I thought Argentina has fallen down in over the last 30 years, this trophy is as much his as it is for the players and for Messi, who they all played for, through wonderful moment after moment in Qatar.
Greatest show on earth lives up to billing
They call it the greatest show on earth and the 2022 World Cup final could not serve up a better script, one with all the drama and twists and turns of an action-packed adventure movie.
For 80 minutes Argentina had perfect control, with an inspirational Ángel Di María and a brilliant Lionel Messi giving the Argentines a 2-0 lead.
However, like true champions, France and Kylian Mbappé roared back with two late goals. The two stars shone and both scored again in extra time.
But like he has done all tournament, Emi Martinez, proved he is not easily beaten from the spot and Argentina seized the advantage after his save on Kingsley Coman's penalty in the shootout.
An epic match that will be remembered for ages, with a fitting end.
After the smoke had cleared, Messi finally and deservingly rode off into the sunset with the love of his life, the coveted World Cup trophy, that had left him heart-broken so many times.
Messi finally gets his happily ever after
The elusive FIFA World Cup title that ‘Ball Jesus’ Lionel Messi so desperately craved has finally arrived. the 36-year wait for the Albiceleste has ended. In the midst of all the excitement, remember Argentina lost their first game in Qatar 2022, and the jeering was a constant reminder that Messi had to do something, and he did. He lifted his team, he lifted his game and showed why he’s always in the conversation about the greatest players of all time. Sharks are born swimming after all.
Spare a thought for the 23-year-old Kylian Mbappé, there’s nothing more he could have done for his team. The speedster scored a hat-trick in a World Cup final, the first since England’s Geoff Hurst did so in his team’s 4-2 win over West Germany in 1966. There’s no guarantee he’ll be back to another final, but I would not rule it out. For Messi, great job, that’s the way you silence your critics and perhaps sign off your International career.
Winners, losers, heartbreak, relief, drama, and genius - a final with everything
How can anyone be expected to describe what a World Cup final we have witnessed? It may be impossible to capture it in limited characters but I will attempt to try.
It was a game worthy of the occasion. It was a battle that delivered and more. It excited, shattered, stunned, deflated, shocked, and thrilled us all. What was billed as the best player in the world (Kylian Mbappé) vs the best player of all time (Lionel Messi), delivered.
Argentina caught France cold and commanded the first 45 minutes. Messi scored from the spot and was instrumental in Ángel Di María's goal. It led to Olivier Giroud and Ousmane Dembele being hooked before half-time. France didn't have a shot at all until the 70th minute. They were done. Until they weren't. Mbappé clawed the defending champs back from the brink with two goals seconds apart. It was Argentina-Holland all over again. Momentum was with France. Di María being withdrawn seemed to be a move premature.
Then both Messi and Mbappé traded goals in the second half of extra time. And the only reason it got to penalties was because Emi Martinez came up with a save that blunted France's final attack in the last minute of extra time. He did the rest in penalties and Argentina didn't blink from the shootout.
It is the completion of one of the greatest arcs in football history. Messi, previously forever in Diego Maradona's shadow, can bask in the Buenos Aires sun. Martinez will never have to pay for a drink in Argentina again, and neither will Di María, or Alexis MacAllister, or Rodrigo de Paul.
What can you say for France? To fall so flat for so long only for Mbappé to have the game of his life and for it not to matter in the end. How can you score a hat-trick in a final and not win? It is something that will be difficult to take, as France, who entered the tournament less than full strength was a hair’s breadth away from retaining the title. But if anything, it showed that Mbappé is ready to dominate world football for years. He will have more chances to add another title. France got to the final without being at full strength. They will have their say in how international football will look for years to come.
But it is Messi that Argentina will sing for, as they did for Mario Kempes in ‘78, as they did for Maradona in ‘86. There are no hidden missions to complete nor side quests to explore. Messi's career is complete. The boy from Rosario is world champion ... at last.