Messi wins Golden Ball after indelible World Cup triumph
Sports Desk : dhakamirror.com
Lionel Messi’s last World Cup match was a fantastic one. The Argentine star’s final World Cup was a magnificent conclusion. The start versus Saudi Arabia was disappointing, but the finale was romantic, exhilarating, and visceral.
After the game ended 3-3 after two quarters of extra time at the Lusail International Stadium in front of a mostly Argentine crowd that never stopped cheering, Argentina beat France 4-2 on penalties.
A spectacular save from Martinez to deny Tchoumeni and a miss from Coman allowed Argentina to clinch the WC trophy after having lead the game for the majority.
Even though Argentina’s star player Messi scored twice and Angel Di Maria scored once, they were not able to get ahead because Mbappe scored his first World Cup hat trick, sending the game to penalties.
Argentina came close to winning
Argentina had the first crack at the French goalpost when previous match hero Julian Alvarez placed one for Alexis Mac Allister who let it fly from outside the box, straight into the cupping hands of Lloris.
France were pinned back within the first 10 minutes as a powerful goal-inbound shot from de Paul in the eighth minute hit a French defender and crashed across the byline.
Argentina with their buccaneering attitude kept coming back and managed to earn the well-deserved advantage in the 23rd minute via a Messi penalty.
The penalty was earned by none other than Angel Di Maria who had Dembele on tenterhooks since the beginning of the game. With France tucked in a compact shape, the winger was forced to do the defensive work but came up short against the Argentine.
In football, especially, these moments come around every time there is a World Cup, for these are tournaments that are often decided by the barest of margins and leave absolutely no room for error. Di Maria and his selection and later his substitution proved to be that moment.
With the two goals, Messi went ahead of legendary Pele in the number of goals (13) scored at the World Cup.
After the goal, one would have thought that Deschamps’ men would pick up the pace and counter-attack. However, it was Argentina that dictated the play and through sustained pressure managed to double the lead in the 36th minute.
A swift move started by Messi with an outside-of-the-boot touch in the right-side half-space to Alvarez who guided it to Mac Allister. The Brighton player charged across the turf and calmly placed the ball at the feet of Di Maria who had no trouble in finding the back of the net from that distance.
After the two goals, Deschamps was forced to make quick substitutions around the 40-minute mark as Giroud and Dembele were hooked and replaced by Marcus Thuram and last-match goalscorer Randal Kolo Muani.
With Argentina firmly in the driving seat, Scaloni opted for defensive changes in the second half as Di Maria was replaced by Acuna. And that turned the game on its head. France jumped to life in the 80th minute when Kolo Muani drove at full tilt in the opposition box and got Otamendi to foul him.
Mbappe covered from the spot and nearly 97 seconds later, rifled a half-volley past Martinez to bring France right back into the competition.
The game ended level after 90 minutes and the first quarter of extra time went without much development. However, in the second half of the extra time, Messi produced another moment of brilliance to beat Lloris and bring Argentina to the cusp.
Just when it looked like France were dead and buried, Mbappe, the 23-year-old youngster brought another special trick from his drawer and managed to stun the full house Argentine crowd.
The WC triumph by Messi and his men is all the more memorable because it comes in the backdrop of the start they had to endure. Argentina were flattened by Saudi Arabia in the opening league game.
“It’s a very hard blow for everyone, we didn’t expect to start like this. Things happen for a reason. We should prepare for what’s coming; we have to win, and it depends on us,” said Messi after the game.
Masterclass by Scaloni
The French camp had a tumultuous 48 hours leading into the World Cup final. A serious bout of illness and minor injuries meant that several players were having a race against time to get fit for, arguably, the biggest game of their careers.
Deschamps decided to make two changes to the lineup from the one that played against Croatia. Defender Dayot Upamecaon and midfielder Adrien Rabiot replaced Ibrahima Konate and Youssouf Fofana.
As for Argentina, Scalnoi brought his big match player Ángel Di María in place of Leandro Parades as the only change. With Ousmane Demble not tracking back and Tchoumaeni expected to be loitering high up the pitch, Scaloni’s plan was to overload the left side with Mac Allister and Di Maria teaming up.
The ploy worked like a charm as Di Maria, along with Messi remained one of the most influential players on the field for the men in blue-and-white stripes.
The 26-day World Cup has concluded. It was over in a flash, yet it left fans with lifelong memories.
This game typically conjures fairytales, and fans had only one they wished to come true. Lionel Messi lifting the WC trophy. It happened Sunday.