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Lionel Messi, Argentina Claim Elusive World Cup Title vs. France

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Argentina v France: Final – FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022
Argentina v France: Final – FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022
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You have to fight to reach your dream. And you have to sacrifice and work hard for it.

Lionel Messi’s infamous words during his rise to football superstardom have finally hit its pinnacle — Messi and Argentina won the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar after beating France 3-3 (4-2 penalties) in the final on Sunday.

Argentina opened the game with a 4-4-2 starting shape with Angel Di Maria back in the lineup for the first time in the knockout stages after dealing with an injury knock, as Nicolas Tagliafico remained as the left back. Messi lined up as a second striker behind rising star Julian Alvarez.

France kept its usual 4-2-3-1 look with Adrien Rabiot and Dayot Upamecano back in the lineup after missing the semifinal against Morocco due to illness.

The first 20 minutes was all Argentina. France tried to keep the play calm and steady, but it couldn’t maintain possession as La Albiceleste’s high press saw them win the ball back in dangerous areas. Argentina also overloaded the midfield with three players to get the advantage over Aurelien Tchouameni and Adrien Rabiot with Antoine Griezmann in a free roam role.

Eventually, France’s inability to sustain pressure and build up from the back led to Di Maria drawing a penalty when Ousmane Dembele fouled him inside the box. Messi stepped up to the spot and scored his sixth goal of the tournament, his fourth via penalty.

 

Argentina kept its foot on the gas from there, with France still unable to get any momentum going in its attacking third and midfield.

Just 13 minutes later, France’s high line got exposed with some exquisite one-touch passing by Argentina that led to Alexis Mac Allister teeing up Di Maria for his first goal of the tournament in the 36th minute.

Desperate for some momentum flip, manager Didier Deschamps hooked Olivier Giroud, who had four goals entering the game, and Dembele, who was at fault for the penalty, for Randal Kolo Muani and Marcus Thuram in the 41st minute.

By the end of the first half, Argentina had six total shots with three hitting the target. France, though, had zeroes all across the board. La Albiceleste also won the possession battle 60-40 with Les Bleus completing just 76% of their passes to Argentina’s 87%.

The first key substitute change for Argentina was left winger Di Maria for left back Marcos Acuna in the 64th minute as Scaloni looked to get more defensive profiles in, which backfired in regulation.

It then took until the 70th minute for Kylian Mbappe to get France its first shot, even though it sailed over the crossbar. But things got interesting 10 minutes later.

Nicolas Otamendi fouled Randal Kolo Muani inside the penalty box, leading to Mbappe scoring from the spot in the 80th minute to give France a lifeline.

Mbappe then scored another just a minute later on a thunderous strike on some slick one-two passing with Marcus Thuram, which forced extra time.

Argentina had the better of the chances in the first 15 minutes. Lautaro Martinez, who came on as a substitute in the 103rd minute, had two key opportunities just after, but both were cleared by Dayot Upamecano.

Messi then got La Albiceleste up in the 108th minute off a chaotic sequence to collect his seventh goal of the tournament, but Mbappe responded in the 118th minute on his second penalty make of the game for his eight goal in Qatar to force a penalty shootout after Kolo Muani missed two huge chances late.

The penalty shootout did not go Les Bleus’ way, however. Despite Mbappe’s opening make, Kingsley Coman and Tchouameni missed the next two that essentially sealed their fate.

Messi now has his first ever World Cup title at 35 years old to add to his already-stacked resume.