Midday in Buenos Aires, 4pm in Paris, 6pm in Doha. The eyes of four billion fans across the world are glued to their nearest television, preparing for football’s greatest spectacle. That spectacle is Argentina v France in the World Cup final – with both sides hoping to achieve a sensational story that’ll take its place in the history books. Can Messi finally lift the illustrious trophy in his final World Cup, or will France become back-to-back winners?
Ángel Di María returned to the Albiceleste’s starting lineup, with Paredes dropping to the bench. France welcomed the return of Upamecano and Adrien Rabiot to the starting eleven, with Fofana and Konaté starting this fixture on the bench.
Argentina started the game in a convincingly dominant fashion, with an early chance from Álvarez saved by Lloris before the offside flag went up. France appeared to be lacking energy, with sloppy passes and playing far below their usual standards.
De Paul finds Di María in the 19th minute, though the winger blazed his shot over the bar. The Albiceleste soon found themselves with the perfect opportunity to take the lead, however, with Ousmane Dembélé being ruled to have shoved Di María in the box – resulting in a penalty for Argentina. Lionel Messi fired home from the spot, sending the French keeper the wrong way and giving his nation an invaluable 1-0 lead.
Di María was able to find the back of the net before the break, with Brighton’s Alexis Mac Allister providing the assist that enabled the winger to send a shot bouncing over Hugo Lloris to double the Argentine advantage.
Didier Deschamps was forced into some early changes after his side’s disappointing performance in the early stages of the game, with Giroud and Dembélé making way for Thuram and Kolo Muani – whose impact off the bench earlier in the tournament cemented France’s place in the final. It was Argentina who received the first card just before the interval, with Enzo Fernández penalised for leaving a leg trailing in the path of Kolo Muani.
France emerged for the second half as a slightly remotivated side, managing to consistently apply pressure to the Argentinian defence. They weren’t able to find a breakthrough though; instead it was Argentina with yet another chance to extend their lead as Tagliafico intercepted Kolo Muani’s pass before threading it through to Álvarez, who was unable to work the ball past Lloris from a tight angle.
Argentina made a substitution with 25 minutes to go, with Marcos Acuña replacing Di María. France had begun to threaten the Argentinian side, with Griezmann and Hernandez’s link-up play developing nicely before both players were subbed off for Coman and Camavinga.
With 15 minutes left on the clock, the French body language appeared to be demotivated and beginning to accept defeat – until Randal Kolo Muani earned a penalty for les Bleus, having been dragged down in the box by Otamendi. Mbappé’s penalty found the back of the net despite Lloris managing to get a hand on it, and France were well and truly back in the game.
Before celebrations had even had time to die down, Mbappé scored once again – after playing a one-two with Thuram. The PSG forward struck the ball in sensational fashion on the volley, equalising for his side with nine minutes left to play!
A tense final few minutes ensued, with chances for both teams coming to nothing – meaning we’d face thirty minutes of extra time at the Lusail Iconic Stadium. Argentina started the first period of extra time well, with Acuña trying to find Mac Allister in the box – but Varane was there to intercept.
Lautaro Martínez and Leandro Paredes were introduced as Álvarez and De Paul’s replacements shortly before the 105th minute – but it was no other than Lionel Messi who found the back of the net to give Argentina the lead with just 11 minutes left to play. The PSG forward was able to capitalise on the rebound of Martínez’s effort, sending the ball past a hapless Hugo Lloris.
France had fire in their bellies from that point on, and were presented with their second penalty of the evening after Montiel handballed Mbappé’s shot inside the box. The flying Frenchman converted from the spot, rounding off a sensational World Cup final hat-trick and becoming only the second person in history to achieve such a feat, after Sir Geoff Hurst in 1966. As if we hadn’t already had enough of them in this game, we’d be heading to penalties!
Kylian Mbappé was up first, firing past the Argentina keeper from the spot once again in front of a wall of Blue and White. Messi was next, rolling his penalty past Lloris who had committed early. 1-1.
Kingsley Coman couldn’t replicate what his compatriot had done, with his shot saved by Emi Martínez. Paulo Dybala, who was introduced as a late substitute when it was clear the game would be ending in this fashion, was able to pass his penalty straight down the middle of the goal to give the Albiceleste the advantage once again.
Aurélien Tchouaméni missed his effort too, and at this point, the final was in Argentina’s hands. Paredes fired low into the bottom left, with Lloris unable to save it despite diving the right way. 3-1.
Kolo Muani was able to lift his effort over Emi Martínez, with France now relying on Argentina missing their remaining penalties. Gonzalo Montiel shattered French hearts, when he replicated what his teammates had already done and placed his effort in the bottom left corner – cementing victory for Argentina.
With that result, Lionel Messi carves his name into history once more – lifting the trophy that he had been so close to in 2014. Argentina return home as 3x World Champions, and Messi returns back to his birthplace as arguably the greatest of all time.