The final between Argentina and France had descended into chaos, the type that makes you forget what is at stake -- A World Cup title -- as you soak in the drama unfolding.
The French, who were toothless for an hour or so, suddenly sparked into action, thanks to a Garrincha-like Kinglsey Coman and ridiculously level-headed Kylian Mbappe. They sprung back to level the score, not once, but twice as the game looked set to go into the penalty shootout.
The 120-minute mark had passed, and there were 20 seconds left for the full-time whistle when a long ball from the French defence evaded a spent Nicolas Otamendi to land at the feet of France’s first-half substitute, Randal Kolo Muani.
The Eintracht Frankfurt forward had the composure to let the ball bounce once and wait for the right moment as he eyed up the most dramatic winner in the history of the World Cup.
As he waited for the ball to come down from its orbit for the second time, Argentina fans from Buenos Aires to Bangladesh dreaded the worst. Hairs were about to be pulled apart, tears were set to flow. Agony had its knives sharpened.
But there was Emiliano Martinez.
As Muani latched on to the shot the very moment before the ball landed for the second time, Martinez had advanced just enough to cut the angle but not too close for his opponent to chip or dribble past him.
His arms stretched out, and his feet shuffled in anticipation of the shot. He knew he had to make the save, and his body willed him to do just that.
There are moments when elite athletes pre-empt the actions of their opponents to the point that it looks like they are seeing the future.
It was one such moment for Martinez as he spread his body as wide as the Andes range of South America to thwart Muani from getting the ball past him.
As Muani’s half-volley came thumping off Martinez’s outstretched left boot, you could almost hear a billion gasps of relief from around the world.
Martinez might have saved four penalties in shootouts -- two in the final and two against the Netherlands in quarterfinal --, but it was Muani’s save that he will be remembered for. A moment that will be immortalised in thousands of murals, probably already in work in the streets of Rosario.
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