Jonty Mark

By Jonty Mark

Football Editor

Argentina edge France in classic to grab World Cup glory

Even a Kylian Mbappe hat-trick can't stop Lionel Messi from finally winning the World Cup.

Lionel Messi finally got his hands on the World Cup trophy as even a Kylian Mbappe World Cup final hat-trick was not enough to stop Argentina beating France on penalties after an incredible 3-3 draw in Doha.

Messi grabbed two goals himself, including one in the second half of extra time that looked to be sending Argentina to a 3-2 win.

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But France got a penalty for a handball by Gonzalo Montiel and Mbappe completed his hat-trick to take the game into a shootout. It was Montiel, however, who had the last laugh, hitting the winning penalty past Hugo Lloris to give Argentina a first World Cup title in 36 years.

For Argentina captain Messi, at 35, this was the crowning glory of an incredible career for surely the best player of his generation, and perhaps of all time. In lifting the World Cup, he matched the achievement of that other Argentinean genius, Diego Maradona, who guided Albicelestes to the World Cup in 1986.

In what turned out to be arguably the best World Cup final ever played, Argentina looked to be cruising to victory, at 2-0 up heading into the final ten minutes of normal time, with Messi scoring from the spot and Angel Di Maria bagging a wonderful counter-attacking second.

Mbappe, however, had other ideas, slotting in from the spot and then rifling in a brilliant volley to take the game to extra time.

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Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni made the bold decision to play Di Maria from the start for the first time in the knockout stages and it paid off as he won a penalty and scored a brilliant second as the South Americans tore France to shreds in the first half.

Messi, as usual, made Argentina tick, spraying passes around with aplomb right from the off. France were reeling from wave after wave of attacks and in the 23rd minute they finally caved in, as Ousmane Dembele fouled Di Maria with a daft challenge inside the area.

Messi made no mistake from the spot, sending Hugo Lloris the wrong way.

Argentina’s second goal in the 36th minute was simply sublime. Messi’s flick set Julian Alvarez away down the right and he found Alexis Mac Allister bursting through the midfield. Mac Allister took one look up and played in Di Maria, who rifled his finish past Lloris.

France were frankly awful, creating absolutely nothing, and Deschamps decided to make a double substitution, taking off Dembele and Olivier Giroud and bringing on Marcus Thuram and Randal Kolo Muani, who had scored with his first touch in the semifinal against Morocco.

But it made little difference initially as France failed to register a single shot at goal before the break.

In the second half, France finally managed a shot, as Mbappe blazed over, but it was still Argentina who looked the greater danger, often threatening to add a third on the break.

Then, with 11 minutes of normal time left, Muani sprung away, and was bundled over in the area by Nicolas Otamendi. Mbappe smashed the penalty past Emi Martinez, even though the Argentina ‘keeper dived the right way.

And a minute later, the scores were level, Mbappe sending a brilliant volley past Martinez, after a superbly executed one-two with Marcus Thuram.

Messi nearly won it deep into eight minutes of stoppage time, his fizzing shot tipped over by Lloris.

And he thought he had won it in the 109th minute, as slotted in from close range, but Mbappe had other ideas, burying his hat trick from the spot after a handball from Gonzalo Montiel.

Both sides had chances to win it from there, with Muani stopped by an incredible save from Martinez, and Lautaro Martinez heading wide from five metres out.

And so the shootout came, and Mbappe and Messi both scored from the spot, before Martinez saved diving to his right from Kingsley Coman.

Paulo Dybala netted for Argentina, before Aurelien Tchouameni dragged his spot kick wide.

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