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  • Writer's pictureBruno Asoka

Messi leads Argentina to win the 2022 FIFA World Cup

Argentina defeated France in the 2022 FIFA World Cup (WC) final following a thrilling 3-3 deadlock to win their third world cup, ending a 36-year wait for the sport's top honor. Gonzalo Montiel's penalty proved to be the game-changing moment.

Despite being extensively touted as this final's two primary protagonists, neither Kylian Mbappé nor Lionel Messi were able to produce a significant opportunity in the opening exchanges. But shortly after, with 23 minutes in, Messi would score the game's opening goal following a clumsy trip by Ousmane Dembélé on Ángel Di Maria inside the penalty area. After taking a deep breath, the maestro casually sidefooted a shot into the bottom-right corner to beat Hugo Lloris and make history by becoming the first player to score in every World Cup knockout round under the 32-team model.

While reports of a virus in the France camp provided some mitigation for Les Bleus’ insipid display to that point, they were carved open again 10 minutes before HT via a perfect team goal. Messi stole possession from a throw-in and found Julián Álvarez, who in turn passed sharply to Alexis Mac Allister. Ever a visionary, the Brighton man spotted Di Maria on the opposite flank, and the Juventus winger ran unchallenged with perfect timing to slot beyond Lloris and seemingly settle the showdown with an hour still to play.

In the second half, a still-overworked Lloris largely prevented Argentina from scoring, and France coach Didier Deschamps dutifully participated in a seismic roll of the dice. With the simultaneous use of Eduardo Camavinga and Kingsley Coman, he added some much-needed speed, but it was previous substitution Randal Kolo Muani who gave Les Bleus a way back by falling in the box under Nicolás Otamendi's charge. Mbappé used the opportunity to shoot a cool penalty beyond Emiliano Martínez refusing to let his own storyline be derailed. In a flash, the Parisian equalized and passed Messi as the tournament's leading scorer after being on hand again just moments later to receive a pass inside the box from Marcus Thuram.

For the fourth time in five WC finals, regulation time ended stalemate. Extra time was tense as expected, but Argentina regained the lead when Lautaro Martínez meandered into the box and fired from an angle, drawing a close-range parry from Lloris. Messi, out of all the potential heroes on the night, pounced on the rebound and saw his follow-up shot blocked, but not before narrowly missing the goal line to give Argentina the victory. But Mbappé went above and beyond once again by converting a penalty, which was given after Montiel handled the ball with 116 minutes remaining to match 1966 legend Geoff Hurst's no longer unique accomplishment of scoring a hat-trick in a World Cup final.

And so the main event would be settled by penalties for the first time in 16 years. Back in 2006, France were bested by Italy in such heartbreaking circumstances, and history repeated itself when Montiel redeemed himself to beat Lloris in the decisive duel, sealing a third world title for Argentina. For brace-scoring captain Messi, who will thrust the ultimate prize high into the desert sky, the long road from La Masia to El Maestro is truly complete, and nobody can now deny him his much-debated equality with 1986 champion Diego Maradona. But tonight was as much about the future generation of Albiceleste, who will have Italy and Germany’s joint-second best tally of four WC titles in their sights for 2026. On this evidence, Messi’s successors will stop at nothing to ensure the name of Argentina is anointed in lights many more times in the years to come.

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