Argentina have won the greatest Word Cup final in history by defeating France on penalties.
The South America champions who flew out of the blocks at the Lusail Iconic Stadium to become the first nation to boast a two-goal lead at half-time of a World Cup final since 1998.
Fittingly, it was Messi who opened the scoring, showing ice-cold composure from the penalty spot to become the first player to have found the back of the net in the round of 16, quarter-final, semi-final and final of the same World Cup.
What happened in the World Cup final?
The circumstances under which the penalty was awarded – Angel Di Maria going down under subtle contact from Ousmane Dembele – might have been controversial, but there was no doubt surrounding Messi’s subsequent finish.
It also had the added significance of moving the Paris Saint-Germain star clear in the Golden Boot standings, moving up to six strikes ahead of none other than Kylian Mbappe on five.
And from there on out, Lionel Scaloni’s men never really looked back, doubling their money with one of the goals of the tournament: an astonishing team effort crowned by Di Maria’s finish.
Alexis Mac Allister, Julian Alvarez and Messi himself were all involved in a slick passing move that was kick-started by winning possession back from Mbappe.
And such was the shock of falling two goals behind before the break that France decided to shuffle the pack with Didier Deschamps raising eyebrows by making a dramatic double substitutions.
Speculation around the full impact of the flu that hit the France squad ran riot as Dembele and Olivier Giroud were hooked for Marcus Thuram and Randal Kolo Muani after playing just 41 minutes apiece.
Initially, though, the dramatic switches actually took the wind out of France’s sails even more as Argentina emerged for the second-half poised to lean into their two-goal advantage.
At times, it looked processional, with just a few wobbly moments from Emiliano Martinez to leave Argentina fans concerned that a repeat of the Netherlands match might unfold before their eyes.
In fact, it wasn’t until around the 70-minute mark that France actually registered their first shot on goal as Mbappe summed up France’s frustrations with a right-footed punt that sailed straight over the crossbar.
At that point, the game looked over, dead and buried, but true to the very nature of the 2022 World Cup and its propensity for drama, France and Mbappe produced the most dramatic comeback that a final had seen since 1986.
First, Les Bleus won a penalty of their own with Nicolas Otamendi felling Kolo Muani to give Mbappe the chance to join Vava, Pele, Paul Breitner and Zinedine Zidane in the exclusive club of players to score in multiple World Cup finals.
And Mbappe made no mistake, fizzing the most nerve-shredding of strikes into the bottom right-hand corner despite Martinez – renowned for his penalty-saving skills – getting a glove to the ball.
It was a strike that lit a fire in Mbappe’s belly and wobbled the knees of Argentina, sparking a truly astonishing moment that broke the internet and left the whole footballing world stunned.
That’s because the 23-year-old bagged his brace to bring France level in truly jaw-dropping fashion, finishing off a France counterattack – which had started with Messi conceding possession – with the most emphatic of volleys.
It was, truth be told, a comeback that nobody had seen coming just a few minutes prior, prompting the whole world to shuffle forward to the edge of their seats and wonder: what was still to come?
However, with the waving away of a France penalty appeal and Messi stinging the hands of Hugo Lloris, the final whistle was blown at 2-2 and the climatic match of Qatar 2022 was set for an extra 30 minutes of action.
Into extra time and despite Argentina suffering the agony of having the World Cup trophy ripped from their grasps, the two-time champions weren’t entirely deterred as they went toe-to-toe with their European rivals.
In fact, if it wasn’t for two truly stupendous blocks from Dayot Upamecano, they might well have retaken the lead a la Diego Maradona’s 1986 team as Lautaro Martinez added some much-needed energy to the front line.
And it was then, then, that the stars aligned, the dreams came true, the footballing gods said ‘yes’ and everything fell into place. Or so it seemed.
Argentina’s Messi pounces vs France.
Martinez, a live-wire now in the Argentina attack, cut through the France back-line as Argentina turned the screw, staying onside by the finest of margins and eventually getting a shot off that Lloris leapt into action to save.
But the ball fell to the one person that Argentina would have dreamt that it fell to: Messi, of course.
It was a scrappy goal, a shabby goal, a poacher’s goal, but a goal nonetheless with the great man bundling the ball home with neither HawkEye technology nor the assistant referee’s bag denying him a moment of history.
It seemed for all intents and purposes that it was the moment that the World Cup had been settled, that Messi had answered the calls of football fans around the world, but no, there was another twist in the tale as France won themselves a penalty.
With handball given against Argentina, the responsibility fell on Mbappe once again from 12 yards and boy did he deliver, showing composure beyond his years to save France yet again.
Selling Martinez the wrong way, Mbappe followed in the footsteps of Sir Geoff Hurst to become just the second male player in history to score in a World Cup final – prolonging the carnage.
And with Martinez making arguably the greatest save of the tournament, the match duly went all the penalties with the ensuing shootout playing out as follows:
Goal: France 1-0 Argentina
Goal: France 1-1 Argentina
Miss: France 1-1 Argentina
Goal: France 1-2 Argentina
Miss: France 1-2 Argentina
Goal: France 1-3 Argentina
Goal: France 2-3 Argentina
Goal: France 2-4 Argentina