The FIFA World Cup 2022 seemed to have seen everything till December 17 — late equalisers from wily free-kick routines, bizarre celebrations and players being sent off during penalty shootouts. But the World Cup final changed everything — a game strictly not for the faint-hearted.
Argentina versus France saw Lionel Messi open the scoring from the spot after Ousmane Dembele had tripped Angel Di Maria. Di Maria, who had spent his time warming benches during the knockouts, added a second. With the score 2-0 six minutes after the half-hour mark, the match looked done — in favour of Argentina.
France, which had multiple players recuperating from a viral outbreak, saw a full-strength squad take the field, but their impact looked shrouded in a cloak of invisibility. Les Blues looked second best, by some distance. But the World Cup final was not over. Kylian Mbappe, who had become the youngest player since Pele to score in a World Cup final four years ago, started the comeback.
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He scored a goal from the spot after Nicolas Otamendi fouled Randal Kolo Muani and, like a bolt of lighting, doubled his tally with a stunning strike on the volley 97 seconds later. Kingsley Coman won the ball in the midfield and passed it to Mbappe, who passed to Marcus Thuram and got it back to shoot with his shin into the net.
France was back in the game nine minutes before the 90-minute mark.
In extra-time, Argentina regained the lead with Messi scoring his second of the night, the goal coming in the 108th minute. France’s hopes to win were shattered again. Mbappe, the phoenix, rose. Again. Following a hand-ball by Gonzalo Montiel off Mbappe’s shot, the referee Szymon Marciniak pointed to the spot. The 23-year-old converted the penalty to become only the second player after Sir George Hurst to score a hat-trick in a FIFA World Cup final.
When the match trudged into penalties, Mbappe scored, but France — with Aurelien Tchouameni missing the target and Coman seeing his shot saved by Emiliano Martinez — had to succumb to a defeat.
Messi sunk to his knees while the world of white-and-blue rose to a new dawn. A third World Cup trophy for Argentina and the first for the boy from Rosario who finally found his way to the trophy he had heartbreakingly missed eight years ago, in Brazil.