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Football

18th Dec 2022

Lionel Messi confirms he is the greatest as Argentina beat France in the World Cup final

Robert Redmond

Argentina 3-3 France. Argentina win 4-2 on penalties.

Argentina have won the World Cup after beating France on penalties after an incredible 3-3 in Qatar. Lionel Messi (2) and Angel Di Maria scored the goals for the South Americans in the first half before France, and Kylian Mbappé brought the match to extra-time. In extra-time, Messi scored his second goal before Mbappé netted his hat-trick. Argentina eventually won the World Cup on penalties.

Messi confirmed he is the greatest footballer of all time with another wonderful performance. Argentina fully deserved their victory, their first World Cup crown since 1986 and their third win overall.

Argentina vs France.

France made two changes from the semi-final win over Morocco. Liverpool defender Ibrahima Konaté dropped out for Dayot Upamecano in central defence, while Youssouf Fofana missed out with Adrien Rabiot returning in midfield.

Argentina opted for one change – Di Maria into the team, despite the winger only playing a handful of minutes in the knockout rounds. It proved to be a masterstroke.

The Juventus winger started wide on the left as Argentina lined out in a 4-3-3 formation, and it was the South Americans who started the strongest.

France were loose in possession and failed to settle in the opening period, with the majority of the spectators at the stadium hissing when they were in possession.

Argentina pressed and hassled their opponents, who struggled to pass between the lines. Alexis MacAllister tested Hugo Lloris with a shot straight at the France captain and Argentina piled the pressure on France, who never got started.

Di Maria’s inclusion proved vital after 23 minutes. The winger turned Ousmane Dembele inside out wide on the right and broke free in the penalty area. Dembele appeared to stretch out his arm and connect with Di Maria, who fell to the ground. It appeared somewhat soft but the referee awarded Argentina a penalty kick.

Messi stepped up and stroked the ball home, scoring his sixth goal of the tournament and becoming the first player to ever score in every round of the tournament.

It didn’t take long for Di Maria to double Argentina’s lead. The former Real Madrid star finished off a sensational passing move for the South Americans.

Messi played a lovely pass around the corner for Julian Alvarez who released MacAllister breaking from midfield. The Brighton midfielder took a look over his shoulder and spotted the run of Di Maria, before sliding an inch-perfect pass into his path. Di Maria knocked the ball beyond Lloris to make it 2-0.

Deschamps responded by taking Olivier Giroud and Dembele off for Marcus Thuram and Randal Kolo Muani. Yet, it made no immediate impact on proceedings.

The first half ended with Argentina dominating possession and in complete control. France couldn’t get near their opponents and ended the half without a shot on goal.

The pace of the game dropped in the second half. Argentina dropped a few yards deeper and were prepared to let France try to break them down.

The European side didn’t even have a shot on target in the first 70 minutes of the match. Mbappe, meanwhile, only had 18 touches of the ball by that point.

Mbappe, however, changed the game within an incredible 90 seconds of football.

First, he found the net with a penalty late in the game to set up a tense final 10 minutes. A minute later, the Paris Saint-Germain forward equalised with a stunning volley that Emi Martinez couldn’t stop.

In the space of just over a minute, the game was turned upside down. France had the momentum and Argentina were on the ropes after dominating the game.

After a tense first period of extra time, where France allowed an exhausted Argentina back into the game, the South Americans grew back into the match.

With 11 minutes to go, Messi slipped in Martinez who saw his shot saved by Lloris, before Messi knocked in the rebound.

It looked like Messi had won the game for Argentina in the most dramatic fashion possible. Yet, the game had another twist.

France won another penalty and Mbappe dispatched it, becoming the first player since Geoff Hurst to score a hat-trick in the World Cup final.

The game went to penalties and Emi Martinez saved from the spot to help Argentina to win their first World Cup since 1986.

Messi, and Argentina, finally got their hands on the trophy after one of the most dramatic and epic matches of all time.

Messi cements his status as the best footballer ever.

It is difficult to compare footballers who have played in different eras and positions. The context shifts and changes when considering the merits of each player.

Pelé was the best footballer of his generation. Johan Cruyff was the best of his generation. Diego Maradona was the best of his generation. Zinedine Zidane was the best of his generation.

And Messi is the best of his generation – it was never even a contest with Cristiano Ronaldo, despite the Portuguese forward’s brilliance over the last 19 years. Kylian Mbappé is the best of the next generation.

How can we accurately compare and contrast these great players? The context, conditions and, in some cases, the laws of the game, were different in each era.

It’s not easy to do so, but on almost every metric, Messi comes out on top. The Argentine is the greatest footballer ever and that should no longer be a debate.

In 1003 games, Messi has scored 793 goals and registered 350 assists. He has won seven Ballon d’Or trophies, four Champions League, 10 La Ligas, the Copa America and now the World Cup.

Messi should have been considered the best footballer ever regardless of the result on Sunday afternoon. Yet, at 35 years old, he has led his team to World Cup, the country’s first World Cup win since 1986 when Maradona led them to glory.

Messi has scored in every round of the tournament, the first player to do so. He has out-thought and out-fought opponents throughout the last month, footballers who are younger, faster and physically stronger.

It didn’t matter who Argentina came up against – with the exception of Saudi Arabia – Messi found a way. He gave life to the rest of the team. Argentina played for Messi and when he was on the ball, he made everyone better. Only Maradona in 1986 has had a comparable impact on a World Cup.

Messi has achieved sporting immortality and there should never be another debate about who is the greatest footballer of all time.