It’s being called the greatest World Cup final of all time.
After more than 120 minutes of play, Argentina beat France in penalty kicks in an extraordinary match on Sunday at this year’s World Cup in Doha, Qatar.
France was down 2-0 in the first half of the game. But everything shifted when French player Kylian Mbappe scored a penalty kick in the 80th minute. Momentum quickened and Mbappe secured a show-stopping second goal just 95 seconds later. It was one one of the biggest comebacks in the tournament and in the history of the World Cup.
The game went into extra time and 23-year-old Mbappe scored a “hat trick” — three goals in one game — the first player to do so in a World Cup final since 1966. But it wasn’t enough for a French victory and Argentina clinched it.
“If there is a football God, today, he was convinced that this victory had to be ours,” said one Argentinian reporter among a crowd of fans dancing and singing in Buenos Aires on Sunday night.
On the field at the World Cup awards ceremony on Sunday, Messi received the World Cup trophy with a ceremonial black robe draped over his blue-and-white Argentina shirt. The Qatari bisht garment was gifted to Messi as a sign of appreciation and respect typically worn by top officials and high-status individuals.
Amid the exuberance of on-field victories and nail-biting moments, there’s also been widespread criticism of Qatar’s documented accusations of human rights abuses, including against migrant workers and the LGBTQ community.
Yet, headlines have mostly focused on the field. Critics say this World Cup is proof that what they call "sportswashing" works. Qatar is currently mounting a bid to host the 2036 Summer Olympics.
And soccer fans have no shortage of upcoming international sporting events. The next men’s World Cup in four years’ time will be jointly hosted by 16 cities across Canada, Mexico, and the United States. And the women’s World Cup takes place in Australia and New Zealand in summer 2023.
It wasn’t clear throughout the games that Argentina would win the World Cup. England, Croatia and France were all contenders. And Saudi Arabia was the only country to beat them in the entire tournament. Morocco’s team also did surprisingly well. They ended up grabbing fourth place as the last African and Arab team in the tournament. They’ll now try to win the Africa Cup of Nations in January 2024.
For longtime Argentinian football icon Lionel Messi, however, this was his last World Cup. Tearful players rushed to embrace him after the final whistle on Sunday. But Messi did say after the win that he’s not quite ready to retire yet, — so fans will have to wait and see.
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