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Messi secures invincibility, leads Argentina to FIFA World Cup glory

Mbappe makes history with hat-trick in final

Lionel Messi secured his status as the greatest of this era after an impressive performance for Argentina as they overcame defending champions France on penalties to emerge as the 2022 FIFA World Cup winners. The PSG star finally won the elusive World Cup trophy to lay the GOAT arguments to rest.

Having led his country to the finals after a shock opening-day defeat to Saudi Arabia, Messi and his Argentina teammates were facing a rematch with a French side that defeated them 4-3 in the Round of 16 four years ago. Messi and club teammate Kylian Mbappe, a man 12 years his junior, were going head-to-head for individual and team honours in the final.

Argentina flew out of the blocks and were rewarded by the 23rd minute after Angel Di Maria had his legs taken in the box by Ousmane Dembele. Messi stepped up and tucked the resulting penalty away nicely, scoring his sixth goal of the tournament.

La Albiceleste were out for blood and sensed that the French had yet to wake up from their slumber. They continued to pile on the pressure and doubled their lead by the 36th minute through the impressive Di Maria. A brilliant one-touch sequence was started by Messi in Argentina’s half before Alexis Mac Allister squared to Di Maria to slot home.

Argentina remained in control of the tie as France struggled to get a foothold. Les Bleus manager Didier Deschamps made two substitutions before halftime, introducing Randal Kolo Muani and Marcus Thuram for the ineffectual Dembele and Olivier Giroud.

Argentina were coasting to victory in the second half as France struggled to create chances or shots in the game.

The French received a lifeline in the 80th minute after Nicolas Otamendi misjudged a long ball, allowing Kolo Muani to steal a march on him into the box. The 34-year-old was too tight to the Frenchman and hauled him to the turf, giving away a penalty. Mbappe stepped up and slotted the penalty into the back of the net to pull one back.

France found a second straight from kickoff to level matters. Kingsley Coman dispossessed Messi inside Argentina’s half before playing the ball infield. Mbappe exchanged passes with Thuram before latching onto a clipped pass from the substitute with a first-time volley past Emiliano Martinez in the 81st minute to send the match to extra time.

Messi thought he had sealed the win for his side after he bundled home from close range in the 109th minute following a parry by Hugo Lloris from a Lautaro Martinez effort, but Mbappe completed his hat-trick nine minutes later. The 23-year-old scored from the penalty spot after Gonzalo Montiel handled the ball in the box to send the game to a shootout.

Martinez showed his shootout prowess in the game as he saved from Coman before Aurelien Tchouameni fired wide. Montiel scored the decisive spot-kick for Argentina to hand them their crown by a 4-2 scoreline after Messi, Paulo Dybala and Leandro Paredes had scored before him.

Argentina have now avenged their 2018 defeat and become the world champions for the first time since 1986. Messi completed the set as he won the FIFA World Cup trophy to go with the Copa America he won in 2021 and the Finalissima he won earlier this year.

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