Argentina have won the World Cup. Argentina, winners of the 2022 World Cup. Argentina are world champions.
Words we yearned to scream. Words, we feared, that we would never see written in our lifetimes. But the wait is over. After a final that stretched an entire nation's limits to the very brink and back again, providing joy and anguish in almost equal, excruciating measure, we can finally say it, loud and clear.
Argentina are World Cup champions.
Talking about just how they got there, how they took the last step to down France in what will go down in history as one of, if not the greatest World Cup final of all time almost feels redundant. Usually in football the process, the journey is so important, but it feels like a secondary consideration when stacked next to the sense of destiny the Argentina squad appeared to feel throughout this tournament, pushing on and on towards the trophy.
Hardly given to hyperbole or any broad statements, Lionel Messi was thinking along similar lines. “It is amazing for this World Cup to finish like this,” the veteran gushed to TyC Sports in the euphoria of victory. “I knew it, I knew it, I said at one point that God was going to give me this one.
“I felt this was it, once more He's given me huge happiness.” Him, and an entire nation. Argentina to a man, woman and child exploded with joy from the moment that Gonzalo Montiel's expertly executed penalty thudded into the net, sealing Argentina's third World Cup triumph. And so ended a game which seemed destined to go the Albiceleste's way.
Not that those above were going to make it easy. “We were born to suffer,” midfield dynamo Rodrigo De Paul admitted after the game, and the Argentine people's tolerance for frustration and heartache was certainly pushed to the limit. It all appeared so easy when Ángel Di María, back at his best after a stop-start tournament, was running riot among the France backline, when Argentina had complete dominance and were able to pick off their much-vaunted rivals at will.
France had to wait almost 70 minutes even to register their first shot of the evening, while the Albiceleste looked supremely confident on the back of goals from Messi and Di María. Was it really going to be this easy?
Of course not. Kylian Mbappé, a worthy rival to Messi throughout the tournament for the top scorer and best player crowns, finally came alive in one devastating ninety-second spell to tie the game, and Argentina were rather fortunate even to make it to extra-time at all after surviving a frenzied late Gallic onslaught.
Then, the fairytale ending we had all dreamed of, Messi turning home late in extra-time to put his side ahead once more; only Mbappé once more had other ideas and netted again to send the game to penalties. Argentina were obliged to win the World Cup final for the third time in the space of less than three hours and this time made no mistake, with another huge save from Emiliano Martínez (he of trophy-fornicating fame) and four impeccable kicks finally deciding the match in the Albiceleste's favour.
Tears, joy and embraces. Worldwide acknowledgement for Messi, who now has the final piece of the puzzle which was missing before he could be officially and undisputedly anointed the greatest player of all time, and take his place in the throne alongside Diego Maradona's in Argentina's hallowed pantheon of idols. Perhaps in the end it was worth all the suffering, to close out this wonderful World Cup story in this fashion: with millions in the streets celebrating, unrestrained joy and gratitude to Leo and the entire heroic Argentina squad in Qatar.