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Best World Cup Final Ever: Argentina beats France in epic match that had everything

Halfway across the globe on the unique World Cup stage in the Middle East, in Qatar of all places, Argentina and its global superstar Lionel Messi edged France in an epic World Cup Final match, with the South Americans pulling out the win in a Penalty Kick shootout after the match ended 3-3 after 120 minutes of play on the field.

(Argentina 3, France 3 (Argentina wins PK shootout, 4-2, Box Score) 

The match was filled with many twists and turns.

This was the best World Cup Final match ever played, and it’s not even that close.

If you want to dig deeper, and see if there’s one that’s even closer, just check out a few articles (like this one), but you are not going to find one better.

Here are just a few of the storylines this match provided even before the first kick:

  • Two of the players that will likely go down in history as best ever, in Messi and Kylian Mbappe, teammates at PSG, leading each side.
  • France was chasing history too.  With a win on Sunday, they would have been the first nation to claim back-to-back victories since Brazil did it in 1958 and 1962.
  • Argentina were also looking to put an end to European domination of the past 20 years at the tournament, as Brazil was the last non-European nation to lift the Cup in 2002.
  • For Messi, it was a chance for a storybook ending to his international career and add to the claim that he’s the best player in the history of the men’s game.

Argentina took a 2-0 lead in the first half, thanks in large part to dominating play in every aspect, as they were led by two of its 30-something veterans, Messi and Ángel Di María.

Di Maria set up the first goal getting fouled in the box in the 20th minute, giving Messi a chance to get a leg up in the Golden Boot race for the tournament.

The first goal was pure bliss for the Argentine side, coming off the foot of Messi penalty kick conversion. Their second goal in the 36th minute provided a build-up play for the ages that was executed with brilliance which completely undressed a lackadasical French side.

The second Argentine goal came from a one-two touch passing clinic through the midfield and into the final third, as Messi made two key touches, including the assist with the clinical finish coming from Di Maria.

For the most part of the first 70 minutes, Argentina remained on the front foot, as France looked sluggish and were outplayed.

How difficult was it for France to create anything in the final third?

Manager Didier Deschamps resorted to desparate measures by taking out it’s highly touted target man, Olivier Giroud, along with Ousmane Dembele for Randal Kolo Muani and Marcus Thuram.

Much like in its Quarterfinal Round win against the Netherlands, Argentina held a 2-0 lead heading into the 80th minute.

Then everything changed as France finally put enough pressure on the Argentine back line.

It was all Mbappe needed to get going.

Of course, the superstar, who was the hero of France’s 2018 World Cup victory in Russia, wasn’t going to flinch when called on to take the penalty.

One minute later — actually 93 seconds to be precise — Mbappe leveled the match with a terrific low, one-time volley.

It was only fitting that this match would go to Extra Time.

As the second period of extra time began, it was Argentina bringing the pressure.  It paid off with Messi being in the perfect spot to put the rebound back in the 108th minute.

Trailing 3-2, France had to step up its attack.  Mbappe’s shot caught an extended Gonzalo Montiel elbow, for a handball in the box call.

 

This gave the 23-year-old World Cup champion a chance to step up and level the match yet again.

After Mbappe’s hat trick equalizer, the clock ran out, and the match would go to a penalty kick shootout.

However, in the last sequences of the extra time period, both sides were so close from a goal at the death.

Kolo Muani got behind the Argentine defense, but was robbed by a ridiculous kick save from Emi Martinez.

At the other end, Lautaro Martinez hit the game winner, but just missed.

The penalty kick shootout began with Mbappe and Messi burying their chances with shot that suited their styles, as Mbappe’s brash liner left no doubt, while a cool, collected Messi went low and left, while Martinez guessed the other way.

From there, Martinez came up with the only keeper save in the second round on Kingsley Coman, then Tchouameni sent his shot wide left in the third round.

It was Montiel who had the final kick.  And he didn’t let his country down.

The celebration ensued, with Messi not running with the rest of his teammates to the embrace with Montiel, but instead he ran to his goalkeeper, Martinez, who sitting on the other side of the goal,

There you have it.

The World Cup Final has always been larger than life.  But now, it had a match that superceded anything we could have possibly imagined.

This will be the match on the world’s biggest stage by which all others will be measured in the years to come.


Pittsburgh Soccer Now contributors and local soccer fans shared their their reaction and emotions to the riviting match on Twitter on Sunday.

Below are some of the highlights.

World Cup Twitter Reaction (from Pittsburgh) 

John Krysinsky has covered soccer and other sports for many years for various publications and media outlets. He is also author of 'Miracle on the Mon' -- a book about the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, which chronicles the club, particularly the early years of Highmark Stadium with the narrative leading up to and centered around a remarkable match that helped provide a spark for the franchise. John has covered sports for Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, DK Pittsburgh Sports, Pittsburgh Sports Report, has served as color commentator on Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC broadcasts, and worked with OPTA Stats and broadcast teams for US Open Cup and International Champions Cup matches held in the US. Krysinsky also served as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach at his alma mater, Point Park University, where he led the Pioneers to the first-ever winning seasons and playoff berths (1996-98); head coach of North Catholic boys (2007-08), associate head coach of Shady Side Academy boys (2009-2014).

PItt MF Michael Sullivan

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