Lionel Messi led Argentina to overcome a French rally from Kylian Mbappe’s hat-trick for Argentina’s third World Cup victory in a penalty shoot-out following a 3–3 draw, on Dec. 18 in front of 88,966 fans at Lusail Stadium in Lusail City, Qatar.
Argentina won its first World Cup since Diego Maradona’s 1986 victory in dramatic fashion, completely dominating the first half, controlling the midfield, and shutting out France from any shots, maintaining 60 percent of the possession while scoring two goals from six total shots.
Messi won the Player of the Tournament award, bolstering the argument that he is the greatest player in the sport’s history by winning his first of five World Cup appearances.
Messi, 35, was tied with fellow Paris Saint-Germaine teammate Mbappe for the most goals coming into the Finals.
The Golden Boot award for the top goal-scorer of the tournament would eventually go to Mbappe with three goals on the day for a total of eight in the tournament.
Argentina’s 34-year-old DiMaria was most valuable in the first half, making a stunning move around Ousmane Dembele in the box, and was rewarded with a penalty kick as Dembele pushed DiMaria from behind.
Messi would convert the penalty kick, 1–0, in the 23rd minute to the right corner, waiting for Hugo Lloris to dive to the left.
Messi became the first player in history to score in every round of a World Cup including the Finals.
Argentina would increase their lead to 2–0 with a counter-attack concluding with Messi making a wall pass outside to McAllister, who assisted DiMaria’s goal with a first-time shot to the bottom-right.
Lionel Scaloni, Argentina’s manager, positioned Alexis Mac Allister to negate France’s primary playmaker, Antoine Griezmann, thus limiting the attacking opportunities of Mbappe until his first shot in the 71st minute.
French manager Didier Deschamps made substitutions in the 42nd minute, bringing in Marcus Thuram for Olivier Giroud, and Randal Kolo Muani for Dembele.
Mbappe got France back in the match in the 79th minute, converting on a penalty to the lower left-corner, powering past the fingertips of a diving Emiliano Martinez—a result of Nicolas Otamendi taking down Kolo Muani on a break-away.
Mbappe equalized the match a minute later with a spectacular shot from a volley from the left-center of the box to the lower-right corner of the goal, powering past the left palm of Martinez.
France continued to pressure Argentina through the remainder of the match, forcing Martinez to make his first save in the 90+4th minute from Adrien Rabiot.
Messi forced Lloris into a save late in the 90+6th minute with a blast from the top of the box—regulation would conclude with end-to-end attacks from both teams.
Argentina forced France into desperate defensive saves at the end of the first half of extra time with Gonzalo Montiel’s shot blocked by a diving French defender, immediately followed by Lautaro Martinez’s missed shot wide left.
Messi gave Argentina its 3–2 lead with a goal in the 108th minute from meticulous passing, barely avoiding an off-side.
Raphael Varane was completely exhausted, falling to the ground following a defensive clearing of the ball in the 112th minute, and was substituted for Ibrahima Konate.
Mbappe retied the match 3–3 with a hat-trick in the 117th minute from another penalty kick as his shot was blocked inside the top of the box by the right elbow of Montiel—surpassing Brazil’s Ronaldo, and Messi, with eight goals for the most in a World Cup tournament.
France had a golden opportunity in the 122nd minute as Randal Kolo Muani had a break-away shot that was blocked by Martinez.
In the penalty shoot-out, Mbappe again succeeded scoring to the left, followed by Messi beating Lloris for the second time.
Martinez saved France’s second penalty kick from Kingsley Coman diving to the left, followed by Aurelien Tchouameni missing to the left—Kolo Muani was France’s other successful penalty-taker.
Argentina sealed the victory with four total penalties made—others made by Paulo Dybala, Leandro Paredes, and Montiel.
France was impacted by a virus in the camp since before the semi-finals, as well as missing their Ballon’Dor winner Karim Benzema alongside Antoine Conte and Paul Pogba.
The 2026 World Cup will be hosted by North America’s United States, Canada, and Mexico.
From The Epoch Times