National day in Qatar has now become National day in Rosario, Santa Fe where this little magician originates from and perhaps in all of South American Argentina.
Finally, the awaited dream has come to pass. That wanted epic moment has materialized. Argentina(and most importantly Lionel Messi) have won the FIFA World Cup.
In what was an intense 120 minutes for the Argentine and Messi fans around the globe, La Albiceste managed to edge out the defending champions to clinch the World Cup title, their third in history and first since the Maradona era in 1986.
Argentina almost bottled it here
La Albiceste were up 2-0 thank to Messi and Angel Di Maria but France’s Kylian Mbappe scored two quickfire goals to put his country on par. Messi restored the lead in the 108th minute but Mbappe equalised a second time from a second penalty to ensure the match progressed to a penalty shoot-out.
Argentina almost bottled it here, they almost did against Australia in the Round of 16. They lost their two goal lead against Netherlands in the quarter-finals deep into injury time. The last time La Albiceste won the trophy in 1986, they bottled a two goal lead against West Germany in the final but found a winner late into the match.
Kylian Mbappe: The Unveiling of a New Legend
Kylian Mbappe has apparently proven himself as the man Lionel Messi is passing the torch of greatness to. The 23-year old was completely unstoppable and repeatedly struck fear in the hearts of the Argentine fans and those who wanted to see Messi lift the World Cup trophy.
Kylian, throughout this tournament, has been nothing short of phenomenal. He’s been a huge terror to every defence he’s played against and just nearly snatched the trophy from the South American outfit, had Messi and co not clasped it firmly.
The first half was quite slow for him, as it was for the entire French team but he had a huge turning point in the second half and was able to turn the game on its head. He really brought his A-game to Lusail tonight, even though it took a little while to unveil it. He was a tough nut to crack.
The Paris Saint German forward was the most lethal of Deschamps’ men, the quickest and most clinical. Even though he lost his regular teammates in Giroud and Griezmann before halftime thanks to Deschamps ‘tactical’ decision, he carried on splendidly and almost snuffed the life out of Messi’s Argentina.
For Mbappe, a second World Cup trophy at the age of 23 would have written his name in the stars. The Paris Saint German forward definitely has nothing to be ashamed of. He gave all he could but it just wasn’t enough to ensure France came away with the win. The lad clocks 24 on Tuesday and already has 12 World Cup goals to his name. Incredibly unbelievable. Considering the fact that the highest World cup tally by a player is Miroslav Klose’s 16 and Mbappe still has at least two editions of the tournament to play, he definitely can smash this heroic.
A Golden-boot deserving performance, he just edged Lionel Messi out at the very last minute to clinch the prize.
The future looks bright, competitive and defined. With the advent of Erling Haaland at Manchester City and his goal-abundant campaign this season, it looked as though the Norwegian already had a hand on the 2023 Ballon d’Or but the same can no longer be said after having watched Mbappe at Qatar. It’ll be a really tough battle between the two. Infact, Lionel Messi may win a record eighth Ballon d’Or next year but going forward, the rivalry between Mbappe and Haaland would be pretty tough.
The Frenchman wouldn’t just reliquinish ‘greatest’ to Haaland and he’s really showing he’s the next big thing in football. He also has an obvious advantage over Haaland, the strength of their respective national teams cannot be compared(The reason Haaland didn’t play the World Cup). Erling did have a chance to choose England but instead stuck with the Scandinavian country, a decision that could serve as a real drawback for him now and in the coming years.
Mbappe, aged 23, now has twelve World Cup goals, as many as the great Pele scored throughout his international career. Mbappe is also the second player to score a hattrick in a World Cup final after Geoff Hurst in 1966, the first to score eight goals in a single World Cup tournament since and the highest World cup goalscorer in the knock-out stages (8 goals) alongside Ronaldo Nazario and Leonidas.
Emiliano Martinez: Argentina couldn’t do without him
Few days ago, fans and pundits alike would have thought either of Dominik Livakovic or Yassine Bounou would win the Golden Glove Award. Well, there was one man who was always not in the mix right from the group-stage of the competition but fought his way through to the big picture with some really heroic saves. Argentina’s World Cup triumph and Emiliano Martinez’s stops are indifferentiable, really. The Aston Villa goalie stepped up to the occasion expertly against the Netherlands in the quarter-finals and he did the same here tonight.
Without the presence of the 25-year old shot stopper, Argentina would most likely have taken a couple of goals in but Martinez saved the day on many occasions. He pulled a great stop to deny Randal Kolo Muani in the closing moments of the game, just at the moment France could have ended the writing of Argentina’s fairy tale story.
He may not have kept as many clean sheets(3) as Bounou(4) but the Aston Villa goalie was definitely the best here at Qatar. He totally deserved the Golden Glove Award. La Albiceste couldn’t have done it without him!
Enzo Fernandez: Best Young Player
Well, there was this man, Enzo Fernandez, he was an integral part, a huge essential to the La Albiceste team. His curler against Mexico cemented their first win at Qatar and put Argentina on the path to glory. He played a beautiful game, he was often one of the best on the pitch. He was brilliant and did a lot of work. Needless to say, coupled with his attacking prowess, he was solid defensively at times(but for a few glitches) when Argentina needed to protect their lead or defend their territory. He was simply good.
Lionel Messi: The Perfect Fairytale
Rewind to 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and Lionel Messi was perhaps, the most miserable man you could have met by virtue of his rather disastrous international record. Final after final, Argentina succumbed to defeat. Twice at the Copa America (against Chile in 2015 and 2016) and once at the World Cup (against Germany in 2014), Argentina suffered the runners-up ultimate kind of heartbreak, collapsing at only the final hurdle.
This kind of frustration prompted La Pulga to retire.
Fortunately, history had already been written long time ago and he just had to fulfill destiny, what was already in the scripts. Messi made the best of decisions to come out of retirement and return to playing international football, one he’d never forget for the rest of his life.
About a year and half ago, Messi had no significant achievement with the senior Argentine team but within the space of eighteen months, Argentina did the unthinkable twice.
Suddenly the man who had nothing to show for his country lifted both the Copa America and World Cup within the space of eighteen months. It’s just too epic.
It’s so great to see Messi get his hands on this trophy and also a record 2nd World Cup Golden ball award(2014 & 2022, no other player has won it twice in the history of the competition).
He had won everything he wanted, both collective and individual. A couple of Champions league titles(4), Ballon d’Or awards(7), La Liga titles, Ligue 1, Copa Del Ray, UEFA Super cup, Spanish super cup, UEFA Golden Boot, FIFA Best Award, Copa America, Pichichi and the likes. But the one trophy missing from his cabinet was this particular one and arguably the most prestigious of them all.
It’s great he didn’t give up after seeing the Germans trample on his dream. It’s so good he picked himself up and continued his quest and finally he got his heart desire here at Qatar. Even if Lionel decides to retire tomorrow, he’s probably cemented his position as the Greatest of all time in the history of football. Only very few players have achieved the feat of winning the Ballon d’Or, Champions League and World Cup during their career. With that achievement, he joins the epic list consisting of Bobby Charlton, Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Müller, Paolo Rossi, Zinedine Zidane, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho and Kaká.
For Lionel Messi, the dream has been achieved. He can now retire the happiest of soccer players, with so much achievement and accomplishment. There’s nothing else to fight for perhaps. It’s right to say he has completed the sports of soccer. His legend and heroic would live on. We know he’d still play for a few more years, maybe even with the Argentine squad when they defend their Copa America title in 2024, but whatever happens, Lionel Messi can take a huge sigh of relief. At last, football accomplished. Esta terminado, un final feliz.
main image credit: Getty Images