Argentina overcame France in the World Cup final on Sunday, giving Lionel Messi his first World Cup victory
Lionel Messi would finally put an end to THE discussion at Qatar’s Lusail Stadium.
Messi would finally reach the pantheon of international football greats seventeen years after his international debut for Argentina, after 173 games and five World Cup campaigns.
Pele, Diego Maradona, Ronaldo Nazário, and Zinedine Zidane would embrace the lad from Rosario, Argentina, who finally led his country to its first World Cup victory in 36 years following possibly the greatest World Cup conclusion of all time.
After only 23 minutes, the Paris Saint-Germain superstar felt he had calmed the tens of thousands of Argentine fans crammed into the Lusail Stadium when he coolly sent Hugo Lloris the wrong way from the penalty spot after Angel Di Maria was shoved to the ground by France’s Ousmane Dembele.
At that moment, an adolescent-like Messi allowed his emotions show as the traveling Albicelestes bowed in worship of their immortal Messiah, who was on his way to joining Maradona as a transcendent figure within his motherland and possibly all over the world.
And, as the 2018 champions toiled in their efforts to stop Messi, Di Maria, and Alexis MacAllister, possibly still feeling the full effects of a rumoured virus that circulated the camp earlier in the week, Lionel Scaloni’s side punished France once more as Di Maria rounded off a wonderful team move to put the game well and truly out of sight – or so everyone thought – just 36 minutes into the contest.
While the former Real Madrid and PSG playmaker was credited with the goal, after producing a wonderful dinked finish to lift the ball over the onrushing Lloris, the move was all about the La Seleccion’s No.10’s brilliance.
Messi was the epicenter of Argentina’s swagger, as he has been throughout the championships in Qatar over the last four weeks, with a no-look around-the-corner flick to Mac Allister.
However, Kylian Mbappe, widely regarded as Messi’s heir, would have the final say of regulation time as he made apologies for an uninspiring 79-minute performance with an incredible 97-second-brace to propel the French back into contention for a second straight global title. Forcing individuals seized by the all-action-encounter all across the world to withstand at least another 30 minutes of action.
Extra time was just as exciting, with Messi swinging the pendulum back in his side’s favor until Mbappe had his say once more with a 118th-minute penalty after Gonzalo Montiel was deemed to have handled the Frenchman’s shot.
Just seconds later, the defender would have the final laugh as he calmly converted his spot-kick to assure Scaloni’s players would go down in Buenos Aires history alongside the classes of 1978 and 1986.
Messi was surrounded by his peers as their fate was set. He had finally won his greatest success, overcome with emotion, like all of others in the Lusail. Although he had been forced to labor even harder than usual this time.
Even though PSG chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi has suggested otherwise, the attacker has been linked with a move to David Beckham’s Major League Soccer team, Inter Miami.
Despite winning the Champions League four times with Barcelona, he is arguably still yet to fulfill the duties of his 2021 move to PSG, with Parisians still searching for their first European Cup.
Last summer, he moved from Catalonia, where he had spent 21 years since leaving his hometown at the age of 13, to the bright lights of Paris. Barcelona has finally paid the price for their poor financial management in recent years, with Messi joining Neymar and Mbappe as the newest spearhead of the Qatari-backed club’s Champions League quest.
Of all, the Argentine has only played one season at Parc des Princes, but he has already won the Ligue 1 title and the French Super Cup. However, their Champions League round-of-16 exit at the hands of eventual winners Real Madrid will have served as a harsh reminder to those at PSG that the club is still a long way from earning a permanent seat at the top table of the European game
After defeating Los Blancos 1-0 in the first leg in February, Mbappe, Messi, and Neymar were startled three weeks later when Karim Benzema scored a 17-minute hat-trick to knock Mauricio Pochettino’s side out of the competition.
Since the game-changing additions of Mbappe and Neymar in the summer of 2017, for a combined total of more than £300 million, PSG has departed the competition in the first knockout round in four of their six campaigns.
Even after returning to the competition this season, they appear to have made life more difficult for themselves, as they squandered the chance to top Group H after Benfica’s five-goal triumph over Maccabi Haifa saw the Parisians reduced to runners-up with almost the final kick of the group.
While his personal triumph in Qatar will no doubt have put an end to the vexing Cristiano Ronaldo-Messi debate that has dominated supporters’ minds in the twenty-first century, Messi will undoubtedly be focused on fulfilling his sole brief at the Parc des Princes in the remaining six months of the season.
PSG will face Bayern Munich in a rematch of the 2020 final in February, but if they can go through the Bundesliga champions, they might be granted a draw against the likes of Liverpool, Manchester City, or even holders Real Madrid.
Messi, of course, was knocked out of the competition on his last visit to Anfield in 2019, when Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool launched a stunning second-leg comeback to overcome the then-La Liga champions 4-0.
Both Mbappe and Neymar tasted the full might of Anfield earlier that season, when the Reds overcame PSG 3-2 in a European classic on Merseyside.
Klopp’s team raced into a two-goal lead early on, with to goals from Daniel Sturridge and James Milner, before Thomas Meunier cut the gap in half before halftime. Mbappe believed he had secured a share of the spoils late in the game when he finished comfortably in front of the famed Kop end with only minutes remaining.
But that was before Roberto Firmino scored in injury time past the famous Gianluigi Buffon to seal the points for Klopp’s men and add to PSG’s European woes.
As club football returns to regions throughout the world in the coming weeks, Messi will undoubtedly be trying to complete a 2022/23 sweep with both club and country, even if his legacy no longer depends on it.
His efforts will be aided by the presence of Mbappe, who became the first player since Sir Geoff Hurst to score a hat-trick in a World Cup final as he played a significant role in Messi’s World Cup swansong.
But, as they did in 2019, Liverpool will hope to be one of the teams standing in their way as they attempt to rebound from last season’s final defeat to Real Madrid and win their eighth European Cup.
No need to worry, Leo.