Lionel Messi and Argentina record a magnificent World Cup victory | Sunday Observer

Lionel Messi and Argentina record a magnificent World Cup victory

25 December, 2022
Lionel Messi realized his lifelong dream for Argentina
Lionel Messi realized his lifelong dream for Argentina

In the most dramatic, nerve-shredding way imaginable, legendary Lionel Messi finally got his hands on the World Cup and with it cemented his place in the pantheon of soccer greats, alongside Pele and Maradona. The final was a match for the ages with a fairytale ending.

The FIFA World Cup came to an exciting conclusion on December 18, 2022 after four entertaining weeks and sixty-four scintillating games amongst thirty-two nations. It was Messi and Argentina that emerged the winners, shattering the dreams of France to win successive World Cups.

At the final, Argentina captain Messi was a beacon of calm amid frequent outbreaks of pandemonium at the Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar as Argentina twice squandered winning positions, eventually taking the title on penalties after the game finished 3-3 in extra-time.

Messi scripted history becoming the first player to score a goal in all knockout stages – Round of 16, Quarter Final, Semi-Final, and Final of the World Cup. Messi with 13 goals across five World Cups is the only player in history to score a World Cup goal in his teens, his 20s and his 30s.

Argentina won their third World Cup (1978, 1986 and 2022) to surpass France (1998 and 2018) and Uruguay (1930 and 1950), to rank behind Brazil’s five (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002) and four titles of Italy (1934, 1938, 1982 and 2006) and Germany (1954, 1974, 1990 and 2014).

Argentina also became the first South American and non-European side to win the World Cup since Brazil in 2002, and the first reigning champions of the Copa America to win the World Cup. It was the tenth World Cup title for a South American side.

The 2022 World Cup became the highest-scoring World Cup in history. Kylian Mbappe’s third goal, which made the score 3-3 after extra time was the 172nd of the 2022 tournament, surpassing the 171 goals scored in 1998 and 2014 editions in France and Brazil, respectively.

The final was also the first tournament showpiece to feature at least three goals from both teams. Besides, the previous highest goal tally during the knockout stages was the forty-seven scored in Russia in 2018. The 2022 World Cup knockout stages produced fifty goals.

Across 1,002 professional games for club and country, Messi has a staggering return of 793 goals, 42 team titles to his name, Messi has already secured his status as a true footballing great. However, the 35-year secured the one trophy that has so far eluded him - the biggest of them all.

Messi now holds the world record for the most goals (71) in a single season, beating legendary German striker Gerd Muller’s previous record of 67.The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi also has nine La Liga Most Valuable Player (MVP) awards and six European Golden Shoe awards.

Off the pitch Messi has three children, Thiago (born in 2012), Mateo (born in 2015), and Ciro (born in 2018), with his wife Antonella Roccuzzo. The pair hailing from the Argentinian city of Rosario have been together since they were 20.

After the final, Antonela penned a heartfelt note on Instagram, “WORLD CHAMPIONS, I do not even know how to start. We feel great pride for you @leomessi thank you for teaching us to never give up, you have to fight to the end FINALLY WORLD CHAMPION, we know what you suffered so many years, what you wanted to get!!! LET’S GO ARGENTINA.”

The World Cup Final

The 2022 FIFA World Cup final took place at Lusail Stadium in Qatar on December 18, 2022 in front of 88,966 supporters, and was refereed by Szymon Marciniak from Poland. France kicked off the match.

Argentina was awarded a penalty in the 23rd minute when Angel Di Maria was fouled in the penalty area by Ousmane Dembele as he cut in from the left. Messi scored the penalty with a low shot to the right corner. They doubled their lead with a Di Maria goal in the 38th minute.

France went into half-time trailing 0–2. France was awarded a penalty as Randal Kolo Muani was brought down in the penalty area. Mbappe scored the penalty and added a second goal less than two minutes later to equalise the score. With the score tied, the match went to extra time.

Messi scored again for Argentina in the second period of extra time. Mbappe was awarded a second penalty in the 115th minute after his initial shot hit the arm of Gonzalo Montiel. Mbappe scored his third goal, becoming the second player to score a hat-trick in the final of a World Cup.

With the score tied at 3–3, after extra time the match was decided on a penalty shootout. Argentina won the ensuing penalty shoot-out 4–2 to earn their third FIFA World Cup title. Lionel Messi (Argentina) was named the Player of the Match.

France became the third defending champions to lose in the following final, after Argentina in 1990 and Brazil in 1998. The match was the third FIFA World Cup final to be decided by a penalty shoot-out, after 1994 and 2006, the latter of which France also lost.

Player of the Tournament

Messi, who had participated in 4 World Cups before the Qatar edition, succeeded in lifting the biggest prize in world football. Messi won his second Golden Ball award as well after 2014 as the ‘Best Player of the Tournament,’ becoming the first player to win the award twice. He also won the Silver Boot award with the second-most goals at the tournament, seven.

Messi becomes the second player to score in the Round of sixteen, Quarter-Finals, Semi-Finals, and Final of a World Cup, after Hungary’s Gyorgy Sarosi in 1938. Messi also with twenty-six appearances surpassed German Lothar Matthaus as the player with the most appearances in the World Cup.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino was present on the presentation podium during the awards ceremony to hand out the medals and present the trophy. He was joined by Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, French President Emmanuel Macron, Argentine Football Association President Claudio Tapia, French Football Federation President Noel Le Great and other distinguished personalities.

Before the Argentina captain Lionel Messi was to lift the trophy, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani put the traditional Qatari ‘Bisht’ on Messi, to mark the crowning moment of winning the World Cup for the first time of his career.

France’s Kylian Mbappe became the second player to score a hat-trick in a men’s World Cup final, following Geoff Hurst for England in 1966. Having also scored once in the previous final, Mbappe became the highest-scoring player in the final with four goals surpassing the three of Hurst, Pele, Vava and Zinedine Zidane.

Mbappe won the Golden Boot award as the top scorer of the tournament with eight goals, the most in a World Cup since Brazil’s Ronaldo in 2002, and was awarded the Silver Ball as the second-best player of the World Cup.

Argentina’s Emiliano Martínez won the Golden Glove award as the Best Goalkeeper of the tournament, while his teammate Enzo Fernandez won the Young Player Award as the best player at the World Cup who is at most 21 (born on or after January 1, 2001).

Argentina’s Road to the Final

Argentina vs Saudi Arabia: Coming off a three-year, 36-game long unbeaten streak, Argentina lost to Saudi Arabia 1-2. Messi scored the first goal from the penalty spot. Immediately after half-time, Saudi Arabia stunned Argentina with two goals from Saleh Al-Shehri and Salem Al-Dawsari in a span of five minutes and put up a disciplined defensive performance.

Argentina vs Mexico: The Argentines bounced back from the shock loss to overcome Mexico 2-0 after a long-range effort by Messi who then assisted Enzo Fernandez for the second, reigniting their World Cup hopes.

Argentina vs Poland: Argentina then beat Poland with the same score line of 2-0 with goals from Alexis Mac Allister and Julian Alvarez despite a first-half penalty miss from Messi, taking first place in Group C.

Round of 16 - Argentina vs Australia: On his 1,000th career appearance, Messi scored his 789th goal, giving Argentina the lead in the 35th minute with a low left foot finish to the left corner. Messi’s first ever knockout-stage goal was followed by an astute goal by Julian Alvarez in the 57th minute when he pounced on an error by Australian goalkeeper Mathew Ryan to finish low to the net past the stranded goalkeeper.

Australia pulled a goal back in the 77th minute when Craig Goodwin’s strike took a huge deflection off Enzo Fernandez before finishing in the right corner of the net. Australia had chances but Argentina overcame Australia 2–1. Player of the Match: Lionel Messi (Argentina).

Quarter Final - Argentina vs Netherlands: Nahuel Molina scored for Argentina after 35 minutes, with Messi doubled the lead via a penalty in the 73rd minute. Substitute Wout Weghorst then scored two goals before the end of the second half, forcing the match to enter extra time, and penalty shoot-out.

Just like in the 2014 encounter, two Dutch players missed from the spot, and four Argentines scored. Emiliano Martínez saved the first two Dutch penalties from Virgil van Dijk and Steven Berghuis, while only Fernandez missed for Argentina as Lautaro Martinez scored the decisive last kick of the game to send Argentina to the semi-finals.

The match had a total of eighteen yellow cards, breaking the record of sixteen that was set in another Dutch knockout defeat in the 2006 round of sixteen against Portugal. Player of the Match: Lionel Messi (Argentina).

Semi Final - Argentina vs Croatia: In a rematch of the 2018 encounter when Croatia had won 3–0, Argentina avenged their loss, decisively beating Croatia by the same score line, for Argentina to booktheir place in the final for the second time in eight years.

Messi received the biggest tonic of all after 34 minutes when he lashed the opener past Dominik Livakovic from the penalty spot after Croatia’s keeper had fouled Alvarez. Alvarez then took Messi’s header just inside the Croatia half five minutes later before embarking a long and winding road to goal, aided by rebounds off Josip Juranovic and Borna Sosa, before beating Livakovic.

The high point of this duo’s masterclass came after 69 minutes when Messi, the magician from Rosario, made one of the tournament’s outstanding defenders disappear. In that moment, Messi did not just mesmerise Gvardiol once, but on a couple more occasions for good measure.

It was pitched as Messi for Argentina against Luka Modric for Croatia, two magnificent players who have World Cup history stretching back to Germany in 2006.At the final whistle, Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni slumped tearfully into Messi’s arms in a gesture of thanks for the performance that has taken them both to the brink of the crowning glory.

Messi’s longevity, enduring talent and his contribution against Croatia meant he has become the first player to score and assist in four separate World Cup matches since 1966 - against Serbia in 2006 and Mexico, Netherlands, and Croatia here in Qatar.

Messi ran things again and took a step back in time to set up a clinching third goal to establish an Argentine record of total eleven individual goals at the World Cups. Player of the Match – Julian Alvarez (Argentina)

France’s Route to the Final

France vs Australia: France started their World Cup campaign as the defending world champions against Australia. The French suffered a shock deficit after nine minutes due to a goal by Craig Goodwin, but were able to stage a comeback with a double from Olivier Giroud, together with goals from Adrien Rabiot and Kylian Mbappe, to win 4–1.

France versus Denmark: France overcame a highly organised and threatening Denmark side with Mbappe striking twice in the second half, despite conceding an equaliser from Andreas Christensen, winning 2–1 and becoming the first team to progress to the knockout stage in Qatar.

France versus Tunisia: France rested their key players for the final game against Tunisia. France resultantly lost 0-1 courtesy of a goal by French-born Wahbi Khazri. However, France maintained top of the group due to superior goal differences to Australia.

Round of 16 - France versus Poland: France overcame Poland 3–1. In the 44th minute, Olivier Giroud received a pass from Mbappe before firing low to the right corner of the net to put France into the lead and break the French goal-scoring record with his 52nd goal.

Mbappe made it 2–0 in the 74th minute when he received the ball on the left just inside the penalty area before firing powerfully with his right foot to the top left corner of the net. In the final minute Robert Lewandowski pulled a goal back to make it 3–1 with a penalty low to the left corner. Player of the Match: Kylian Mbappe (France).

Quarter Final - France versus England: France defeated England 2–1.Aurelien Tchouameni opened the scoring with a shot from outside the penalty area in the first half. Early in the second half, Tchouameni fouled Bukayo Saka in the penalty box. Harry Kane scored the penalty and it took Kane to level with Wayne Rooney as England’s all-time top scorer with fifty-three goals.

Olivier Giroud, who entered the match as France’s all-time top scorer, scored his 53rd international goal as well 12 minutes from time. France’s cruise to the semi-finals, along with Croatia, marked the first time that both teams from the most recent World Cup final qualified to the last four of the subsequent tournament since Argentina and West Germany in 1990. France also became the first reigning world champions to reach the World Cup semi-finals since Brazil in 1998. Player of the Match: Olivier Giroud (France).

Semi Final - France vs Morocco: France faced the biggest underdog of the tournament, Morocco, who had beaten both Spain and Portugal in the process. The French were able to end the history-making run by the African nation with two goals from Theo Hernandez and Randal Kolo Muani, France reaching their second consecutive World Cup final for the first time in history.

This match marks the first ever World Cup semi-final featuring an African team, and the first involving an Arab country. This is the third time that a team from a confederation other than Europe and South America have made it to the World Cup semi-finals, after the United States in 1930 and South Korea in 2002. Player of the Match: Antonie Griezmann (France).

(The author is an Associate Professor, International Scholar, winner of Presidential Awards and multiple National Accolades for Academic pursuits. He possesses a PhD, MPhil, and double MSc. His email is [email protected])