from HUSSEIN HUSSAIN in Doha, Qatar
DOHA – ARGENTINA have clinched the World Cup after a Lionel Messi-inspired dramatic win over France on Sunday.
The 4-2 penalty shootout outcome at the Lusail handed them a third title following their success in 1978 and 1986.
For France, the quest to become the first side in 60 years to defend their crown has ended in distress.
A tournament that opened in Qatar with so much controversy ended in a spectacular fashion in front of some 88 966 fans at Lusail and billions watching worldwide.
It produced undoubtedly the most memorable final to date, and one of the best football games ever played as well as the highest number of goals (172) in the tournament’s 92-year history.
As expected Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe were the most influential players for Argentina and France respectively on the pitch.
The two sides were tied two-all in 90 minutes, resulting in an eighth FIFA World Cup final to go into extra time.
Had Argentina not won this, they would have forever rued how they let it slip through their fingers, having secured a 2-0 halftime lead. Messi netted a 23rd minute penalty. Angel Di Maria stretched the lead with a 36th minute finish.
Only for the South Americans to allow the Europeans back into the game.
Mbappe netted an 80th minute penalty and scored a crisp volley a minute later.
Messi appeared to have at last won it for the Argentines in extra time but again, they squandered the opportunity as Mbappe netted another late penalty after a handling offence in the box, 3-3.
This was the second final to go to penalties but as in 2006, when they lost to Italy, France were again on the receiving end.
Messi, Paulo Dybala, Leandro Paredes and Gonzalo Montiel scored from the penalty spot.
Goalkeeper Damián Emiliano Martínez saved Kingsley Coman’s spotkick while Aurélien Djani Tchouaméni shot wide.
Mbappe and Randal Kolo Muani scored.
Elation for Argentina, heartbreak for France and an enthralling finish to the first World Cup played on Arabian soil.
– CAJ News