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World Cup TV View: ‘Do you have a defibrillator in the studio? Because my heart can’t take this’

Mary Hannigan: The most hideous of World Cup hosts but the most gorgeous of finals

Ah football, you crazy, beautiful, ridiculous, preposterous thing.

“In your life,” asked Gary Lineker, “have you ever seen a game like it?”

Maybe we had, but we’d all have been struggling to recall a World Cup final to rival it. Pure breathless, gorgeous, bonkers magic.

When Argentina went 2-0 up, cruising en route to their comfy lead, a good chunk of us would have been reaching for the tissues ahead of the anticipated sight of Lionel Messi raising that goldie trophy, but then the most hellishly awful hosts in the history of the tournament got the most heavenly of finals, “one for the ages”, as Lineker described it.


“Do you have a defibrillator in the studio? Because my heart can’t take this,” Liam Brady told Joanne Cantwell when the game moved from the absurd to the other-worldly, by then Liamo proclaiming it to be the best final he had ever witnessed.

“This is why football is the best game in the world,” he said. Anyone who disputes that notion – sorry, you’ve lost.

It was a game that had everything, and a little bit more, Kylian Mbappé scoring a hat-trick and still ending up on the losing side.

Geoff Hurst had, of course, been the only man to score three goals in a final until then, ITV’s Ally McCoist referencing that achievement when he saluted Mbappé. “The first hat-trick in a World Cup final where all three were over the line,” he said, leaving his listeners snorting loudly, if not Lee Dixon seated beside him.

Ahead of the game all three of our panels – RTÉ, ITV and the BBC – had driven their woke-loathing viewers over the edge of their respective cliffs by devoting no little time to how it was decidedly grim that Qatar ever got to host this tournament in the first place.

“This World Cup is stained, that’s the bottom line – the football’s been great, but the football was always going to be great,” said Roy Keane, his newly formed moustache and tuft under his chin distracting viewers from his wise words.

“We’ve been living in what feels like a football theme park for the last month,’ said Alan Shearer over on the BBC. “If Disneyland did football tournaments . . . but we must remember the blood, sweat and tears of everyone who’s made it happen.”

And on RTÉ Joanne Cantwell kicked off a lively debate about the sports-washing aspect of the whole thing, wondering if the RTÉ panel had contributed to that endeavour by largely focusing on the football rather than the human rights abuses of the hosts.

Her panel disputed that notion, notably Richie Sadlier, them no more than most of the rest of us caught in the quandary between wanting to shun this charade, while being drawn to the football, which, ugly as everything is that surrounds it, remains a magnetic thing.

And the final was, indeed, one for the ages. All you can hope is that when the tournament’s history is written up, the loveliness of the football can be separated from the pure awfulness of the country that hosted it.

Argentina or France?

Damien Duff: “My wife would say I’m not a romantic, but I’m a football romantic, for sure – I want Messi to win.”

That was the gist of all our pundits’ feelings, the majority of them going “head: France, heart: Argentina”.

Look it, we could try to summarise the game here but where do you start?

Let’s go with Argentina’s second goal, Liamo describing it as the best team goal he had ever seen in a World Cup final. “Simple, but genius.” High praise, that. But it was indeed a thing of indescribable beauty, so we won’t try to describe it. But, God almighty.

Thereafter? All we can do is quote the Duffer. “Football romance is absolutely not dead.”

Messi’s trophy-lifting moment arrived. And need it be said, Gianni Infantino tried to hog that moment by clinging to him like a limpet, while Messi was wrapped in a robe, a bisht, by the emir of Qatar, his country’s shirt thereby concealed.

It was the most fitting end to the tournament. The loveliness of football commandeered by those who buy it to whitewash their ugliness.

The most hideous of hosts then, but the most gorgeous of finals. Your head would be wrecked from trying to compute it all.

Mary Hannigan

Mary Hannigan

Mary Hannigan is a sports writer with The Irish Times