Best sporting moments of the year - No 2: Lionel Messi fulfils World Cup destiny with Argentina

Having played his part in all three Argentina goals he then scored the first goal in the penalty shoot-out

Soccer – World Cup Final, Lusail Stadium, Qatar, December 18th

An iconic trophy held by an icon, Lionel Messi’s fulfilment of his destiny provided the end game to a World Cup unlike any other.

Messi – who had managed to disrobe the bisht, a Qatari robe which briefly became part of his wardrobe for the formal presentation – was shouldered high above all others on a pitch invaded by his own, a legion of devotees who finally had found a way to truly pay homage to their footballing messiah.

If that image of Messi – his heavily tattooed arms holding the World Cup trophy as if he were its sole protector as the masses descended to be in his presence – gave us a fitting finale, it was his impact, as ever, over the previous two hours of drama which gave evidence of his greatness.


His golden boot had an act and part to play in all three of Argentina’s goals. Firstly, the penalty. Secondly, his touch starting in train the sequence of passes that finished with the beautiful second goal of Ángel Di María. Thirdly, his finish for Argentina’s third goal.

Even that wasn’t enough, on a night when France – through Kylian Mbappé’s hat-trick – fought to the death and forced the destination of the trophy into a penalty shoot-out where, again, Messi showed leadership in taking Argentina’s first penalty and setting them on the way to a first World Cup win since 1986.

Messi’s final act as a player on the greatest stage was to lay claim to the trophy itself, the final brushstroke to his masterpiece in a career of the ages.

“It’s madness ... look how she is, she’s gorgeous,” said Messi of finally getting his hands for real on the World Cup at the age of 35. “I wanted her so much. I had a vision that this would be the one, she was getting closer. I wanted to close my career with this. I can no longer ask for anything else, thank God, he gave me everything.”

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times