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SPORTS | 18-12-2022 15:31

Messi crowns glittering career with World Cup as Argentina beat France on penalties

Lionel Messi crowned his glittering career with victory in the World Cup on Sunday as Argentina beat France on penalties in a final for the ages.

Lionel Messi crowned his glittering career with victory in the World Cup on Sunday as Argentina beat France on penalties in a final for the ages, triumphing 4-2 after Kylian Mbappé's hat-trick ensured the game ended level following extra time.

Gonzalo Montiel rolled in the deciding penalty to give Argentina their third World Cup and prevent France becoming the first team in 60 years to retain the trophy.

But a truly remarkable game saw Messi and Mbappé both live up to their billing, with the former scoring twice and the latter becoming the first player since England's Geoff Hurst in 1966 to net a World Cup final hat-trick. The game ended 3-3 after extra time.

Messi had opened the scoring from the penalty spot midway through the first half before Ángel Di María doubled Argentina's lead at the end of a brilliant counter-attack in the 36th minute.

But the astonishing Mbappé breathed life into the holders as he pulled one back from the penalty spot with 10 minutes to go before equalising in stunning fashion just 60 seconds later to force extra time.

Messi then seemed to have decided the contest in Argentina's favour once and for all when he converted a rebound in the 109th minute, only for Mbappé to net from another spot-kick, bringing the game level at 3-3 and forcing a shoot-out.

The third World Cup final penalty shoot-out started with Messi and Mbappé both scoring, but Kingsley Coman's next kick for France was saved and Aurelien Tchouameni then crucially missed the target.

It is the second time in five World Cups that France have lost the final on penalties after they were beaten by Italy in 2006, and it is the Albiceleste who are champions for the first time since 1986.

The win allows Messi, at 35, to complete his glorious career by emulating Diego Maradona, and this will be remembered as his tournament despite the best efforts of Mbappé, who finished as the tournament's top scorer on eight goals, one more than his Paris Saint-Germain teammate Messi.

 

Mbappé hat-trick

France's quest for history had been threatened by a virus in the days leading up to the final and they appeared sluggish before Argentina went ahead.

The Europeans conceded a penalty for the fourth time this tournament when Di María was clipped by Ousmane Dembelé, and Messi stepped up to score from the spot for the fourth time in Qatar, his 12th World Cup goal allowing him to equal Pelé's tally.

The expected response from the defending champions was not forthcoming and Argentina increased their lead in the 36th minute.

Messi and Julián Álvarez combined to release Alexis Mac Allister bursting through the middle, and he played a first-time ball to the back post for Di María to finish.

Having hardly featured in the knockout rounds due to injury, Di María had returned here and appeared tearful as he celebrated his goal, which was a World Cup final classic.

France had not even mustered a shot and Deschamps moved before the interval to replace Olivier Giroud and the struggling Dembelé.

On came Randal Kolo Muani and Marcus Thuram, as Mbappé moved into the middle of the attack.

 

Argentina blow two-goal lead

Argentina had famously blown a two-goal lead before eventually emerging victorious in their last World Cup final triumph 36 years ago, but there appeared little prospect of a repeat of that scenario.

However, the French were suddenly given hope when they won a penalty 10 minutes from time as Kolo Muani was brought down by Nicolás Otamendi.

Mbappé smashed the spot-kick into the net and the watching French President Emmanuel Macron rose to his feet.

France had hope, and within another minute they were level.

Messi was robbed of possession by Coman in the lead-up, before Mbappé found Thuram and then met his partner's knockdown with a stunning volley.

It will go down as one of the most dramatic moments in World Cup history, and the French players on the bench raced across the pitch to celebrate with their teammate.

Argentina, who lost the 2014 final in extra time, looked shattered, and yet it seemed again that they had won it when Messi followed up to score early in the second extra period after Lautaro Martínez's shot was saved.

But France were again saved by Mbappé as he converted another penalty following a Montiel handball.

It was end to end, and Argentina needed a brilliant Martínez save from Kolo Muani to take it to penalties and Montiel's kick proved decisive to spark wild celebrations in Argentina 

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