Final will go down as one of the greatest in World Cup history

Argentina prevailed after France suddenly sprang into life to create an extraordinary contest

Argentina have won the World Cup in Qatar, defeating France on penalties after an astonishing 3-3 draw that will go down as one of the greatest finals in the history of the competition.

Argentina’s captain Lionel Messi scored twice to lead his team to victory, becoming the first player to score in every round of the World Cup since the introduction of the round-of-16 in 1986.

“The match was completely insane,” said Argentina’s victorious coach Lionel Scaloni, sitting at the post-match press conference wearing an Argentina shirt freshly updated with a third star to represent the country’s third World Cup win.

Scaloni’s assessment was accurate. So many World Cup finals are anticlimactic affairs, as the teams cancel each other out or are too inhibited by the fear of defeat to show their best form.


Others are one-sided, as one team plays well and the other fails to make a real contest of it.

For the first 80 minutes, this match looked like it would fall into the second category, as France, playing their fourth final in the last seven tournaments, provided little resistance to a dominant Argentinian team ablaze with determination to end their 36-year wait for a third world title.

France’s performance for the majority of normal time was so bad that coach Didier Deschamps was asked afterwards whether some of his players had been suffering the effects of illness after a reported flu outbreak in their squad, but he insisted all his starters had been “100% fit”.

With 10 minutes to go, Argentina led 2-0 with goals from Messi and Angel di Maria. Then France’s 23-year-old star Kylian Mbappé stunned the majority-Argentinian crowd at the Lusail Stadium with two goals in 97 seconds.

Argentina, who had recovered from the shock of losing a two-goal lead against the Netherlands in the tournament’s second round, found the strength to take the game back to France in extra-time, and the 35-year old Messi scored what seemed likely to be the winner in the second half of extra-time.

But Mbappé equalised again from the penalty spot two minutes from the end of extra-time to send the final to a shoot-out.

Under intense pressure from the Argentinian crowd all around him, France’s second penalty-taker Kingsley Coman saw his effort saved by Argentina’s keeper Emiliano Martinez, before Aurelien Tchouaméni missed France’s third. Messi, Paulo Dybala, Leandro Paredes and Gonzalo Montiel all scored to win the shoot-out for Argentina.

Messi won the Golden Ball for Player of the Tournament, becoming the first player to win this award twice, after previously winning it in 2014. Mbappé won the Golden Boot for top scorer in the tournament, with eight goals.

Argentina’s Enzo Fernandez was named Young Player of the Tournament, while Argentina’s goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, whose saves proved crucial in penalty shoot-outs against the Netherlands and France, won the Golden Glove for best goalkeeper.

England took home the Fair Play Trophy.

Ken Early

Ken Early

Ken Early is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in soccer