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FIFA World Cup 2022: Argentina beats France 4-2 on penalties

Lusail, Qatar; Argentina forward Lionel Messi (10) celebrates with fans after winning the 2022 World Cup final against France at Lusail Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Yukihito Taguchi-USA TODAY Sports

Argentina beat France 4-2 on penalties to win the 2022 World Cup, handing Lionel Messi his first-ever World Cup title.

The Argentines controlled proceedings early in the first half, with France struggling to keep hold of the ball. And the breakthrough came just after the 20-minute mark when Ángel Di María dribbled past Ousmane Dembélé and drew a penalty kick, which Lionel Messi fired into the net to make it 1-0.

Just 13 minutes later, Argentina created the team goal of the tournament when a five-pass move took them from one 18-yard box to the other and was capped off by a calm finish by Di María to make it 2-0 before the break. 

The second half was more of the same for a French team that found itself unable to create anything through La Albiceleste's stifling defense. But just as it looked as though they would go quietly into the Qatari night, Randal Kolo Muani forced a penalty out of nothing to give France hope, and Kylian Mbappé smashed it home to make it 2-1 in the 80th minute.

The goal seemingly flipped the switch for France, as just 90 seconds later,  Mbappé finished a clinical French move with a pin-perfect volley into the side netting to flip the game on its head and send it to extra time. 

In extra time, two of the best players on the planet left it all on the pitch. First, Lionel Messi followed up a rebound in the 108th minute to make it 3-2, only for the effort to be undone by another Kylian Mbappé penalty kick in the 118th minute, sending the game to penalty kicks. 

Emiliano Martínez again came up big for Argentina in a shootout, saving another spot kick to give his side a shot. And in the end, it was Gonzalo Montiel who scored the fourth and final penalty kick, sending Argentinian fans around the world into a frenzy as they won 4-2. 

Expected goals (xG): Argentina 2.34, France 2.02

Man of the Match: Kylian Mbappé, France

There are not enough words to describe Mbappé's performance in the final. Heroic, phenomenal or extraordinary all fit the bill, but they still do not feel enough.

His hat-trick was the second ever in a men’s World Cup final and the first since 1966. On top of his three goals, the French star also completed four dribbles and two through-balls, and he had 10 possessions inside the Argentinian box.

Best Passer: Enzo Fernández, Argentina

Fernández was named Young Player of the Tournament for his phenomenal play in Qatar, and his passing today showed why he deserved the award. He completed 85.7 % of the passes he attempted, two of his three through-ball attempts, 15 line-breaking passes, and he created one chance. 

Best Challenger: Nicolás Tagliafico, Argentina

Tagliafico was a wall in the back for Argentina, winning eight of his 13 tackle attempts throughout the game. He also won two of his three 50/50 duels and two of his four aerial duels. 

The G.O.A.T. — Lionel Messi, Argentina

Messi has a claim for Man of the Match, but it only felt right to give the man his own section.

Messi produced another magisterial performance, scoring two goals, creating four chances, and completing 91.2% of his passes and six of his eight through-ball attempts.

On top of that, he dispatched the second penalty of the shootout with unbelievable composure to level the score.

Messi now adds the long-awaited World Cup to his trophy cabinet to go along with seven Ballon d’Ors, four Champions League winners medals, one Olympic gold medal and one Copa America title.

The 35-year-old has now surely claimed his throne as the greatest men's player of all time.

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