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Argentina beat France 4-2 (3-3) in penalty shootout to win third FIFA World Cup title

Argentina wins

Doha, December 18: Lionel Messi has waited a long time, but finally got his hands on the elusive trophy on Sunday in what was his final match at the World Cup. In a tense finale, Argentina defeated defending champions France 4-2 on penalties, following a dramatic 3-3 draw after extra time, in the summit clash to win their third FIFA World Cup title.
The match went to the penalty shoot-out after a dramatic six-goal thriller at the Lusail stadium. Keeper Emiliano Martinez was the star in the shoot-out as he saved Kingsley Coman’s penalty to give Argentina a big advantage. Argentina’s all four penalty takers scored for them to take the team home as Aurelien Tchouameni also missed for France.
Messi scored a brace in the final, including a penalty, and Angel Di Maria netted one for the champions. But it was Kylian Mbappe’s hat-trick which kept the holders alive in the contest.
It was an incredible night of drama and fluctuating fortunes, delivering one of the all-time great finals to cap a wonderful tournament.
Argentina had looked to be cruising to a one-sided victory after Messi’s penalty and a brilliant goal by Di Maria in the first half put them in total control but Mbappe converted an 80th-minute penalty and volleyed in an equaliser a minute later to take the game to extra time.
Messi put Argentina ahead again but Mbappe levelled with another penalty, becoming the second man to score a World Cup final hat-trick after Geoff Hurst for England 1966.
That took the game to a shootout where Argentina keeper Martinez saved Kingsley Coman’s penalty and Tchouameni fired wide to give Gonzalo Montiel a chance to win it, which he gleefully took.
It meant that after his record 26th World Cup match, at the fifth and final time of asking, the 35-year-old Messi finally claimed the trophy that he and his nation demanded, lifting him up alongside Diego Maradona after the country’s first football God carried them to their emotional second triumph in 1986 following their first in 1978.
It had all looked to be going so smoothly earlier.
Di Maria, with just a few minutes under his belt since the group stage, looked dangerous from the start and when he left Ousmane Dembele flailing with a neat turn, the flummoxed Frenchman clumsily tripped him from behind after 23 minutes. Messi took the penalty, calmly steering the ball low beyond Hugo Lloris and then Di Maria took centre stage again after 36 minutes when he finished off one of the best goals to grace a final.
Nahuel Molina cushioned a first-time clearance to Alexis Mac Allister, who instantly played the ball to Messi. The captain changed the direction of attack with a great turn and layoff on halfway, Julian Alvarez clipped it back to Mac Allister, who advanced and slid the ball perfectly across the field for Di Maria to take in his stride and slot home.
France had barely had a kick and coach Didier Deschamps took decisive action, hauling off Oliver Giroud and Dembele and throwing on Marcus Thuram and Randal Kolo Muani after 41 minutes.
It made little impact until they were given a lifeline in the 80th minute when Nicolas Otamendi tripped Kolo Muani and Mbappe, previously anonymous, expertly converted the penalty.
A minute later he swept in a brilliant equalising volley after combining cleverly with Thuram, stunning the massed Argentine fans watching their team concede two quick-fire goals for the third time in the tournament.
Argentina regained the lead after a counter-attack when the tireless Lautaro Martinez smashed a shot at Hugo Lloris and Messi pounced on the rebound, technology confirming the ball had crossed the line. The drama was not over, however, as Mbappe hammered a shot against the arm of Montiel to produce another penalty in the 117th minute, which he calmly dispatched.
Lionel Messi rewrites record books with a brace in FIFA World Cup final
Argentina’s Lionel Messi rewrote the record books as he netted two goals in the FIFA World Cup final against France on Sunday.
Messi converted the penalty in the 23rd minute and then netted the ball again in the extra time (108th minute), scoring for the first time in a World Cup final.
The 35-year-old also scored in the penalty shootout as Argentina grabbed their third title with 4-2 win over defending champions France.
Messi now has 13 World Cup goals as he surpassed Brazilian legend Pele. The goals took Messi’s Argentina goal tally to 98.
The strikes also made Messi the first player to score in the group stage, round of 16, quarter-final, semi-final and final in a single edition of the World Cup.
The goal took Messi to joint 4th spot on the list of most goal scorers in FIFA World Cup. Miroslav Klose of Germany tops the the list with 16 goals followed by Brazil’s Ronaldo (15). Germany’s Gerd Muller (14) is third on the list with Just Fontaine (13) of France now tied with Messi on the fourth spot.
(ToI With inputs from agencies)