Words (a lot of them) by Rikesh Chauhan.
© via AFA/FIFA/Twitter
There was much to be said about the build up to Qatar, but the World Cup itself does what no other sporting competition can—it unites and brings the world together, even if for just a month. It champions the underdog, cements legendary status amongst players and teams, and creates stories in a way which, oftentimes, read like fairy tales. Amidst the corruption of FIFA, controversy over the treatment of migrant workers and LGBTQIA+ communities, chaotic fixture scheduling, broken promises and empty gestures, and that 54-minute speech from Gianni Infantino on the eve of the tournament, the football still, somehow, managed to deliver. For those still catching their breath from the final, let's go back to the beginning.
The Group Stages
Group A: Netherlands (Q), Senegal (Q), Ecuador, Qatar
Ensuring the tournament got off to a unique start, Qatar became the first host nation in World Cup history to lose their opening match, falling 2-0 to Enner Valencia and Ecuador. On paper, the exciting Group A game was undoubtedly Netherlands versus Senegal, and it was definitely more exciting on paper. Two very late goals from Cody Gakpo and Davy Klaassen were the only highlights of an otherwise dull game.
The second round of games—thankfully—threw a few spanners in the works. Netherlands, having taken the lead after six minutes against Ecuador, were pulled back by Enner Valencia again to draw 1-1, while Senegal calmly brushed aside the hosts with a comfortable 3-1 victory. Qualification was more or less guaranteed for Oranje, given their final game was against Qatar—two goals from Gakpo and Frenkie de Jong saw them finish top of the group. Senegal versus Ecuador was always going to add a bit of drama given the form and the stakes. Senegal's Ismaïla Sarr opened the scoring from the spot with a deft no-look penalty before Moisés Caicedo equalised. Every team has their talisman, and even though Senegal were missing the man that got them to the World Cup in Sadio Mané, it ended up being much Kalidou about nothing. Captain Koulibaly scored with an emphatic finish, sending them into the Round of 16 for only the second time in their history. The first time, anecdotally, was in 2002 when their current manager, Aliou Cissé, was the team's captain.
Group B: England (Q), USA (Q), Iran, Wales
There was a lot of debate around England’s squad, particularly notable omissions. Media speculated that this would be Southgate’s last throw of the dice before a change was deemed necessary, even though he already proved to be one of England's best ever managers when it came to major tournaments. He immediately silenced all of this with a positive opening XI which subsequently knocked Iran for six. England won 6-2 with goals from Jude Bellingham, Bukayo Saka, Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish. 19-year-old Bellingham, additionally, became only the second teenager to score for England in the World Cup after Michael Owen in 1998. Wales meanwhile managed to salvage a point through a Gareth Bale penalty after falling behind to a quality opener by Tim Weah, the USMNT striker and son of 1995 Ballon d’Or winner, George.
The second round of games ensured it’d go down to the wire. Wales imploded in the 86th minute against Iran. First, veteran 'keeper Wayne Hennessey became the first recipient of a straight red card following a poor impersonation of Paolo di Canio. Instead of scissor-kicking the ball after coming off his line, he ended up clattering one of the Iranian forwards instead. The Iran pressure proved fruitful —two goals scored in the 98th and 101st minute of regular time by Roozbeh Cheshmi and Ramin Rezaeian meant Iran got their first win of the tournament. Real snatch and grab hours. Not all hope was lost, mind. For the fifty millionth time, England failed to beat the United States, meaning at the end of this round, the table read England on 4 points, Iran on 3, USA on 2 and Wales on 1. Going into the final stage, England were strongly tipped to beat Cymru, whilst Iran versus the USA was going to be more of a tightly-contested affair. Marcus Rashford broke the deadlock with the first freekick of the World Cup (the last one was scored four years ago by England's Kieran Trippier) and 98 seconds later, Phil Foden made it two;
3-0 being the final score following Rashford's second of the night. Iran narrowly lost out to Captain America; Chelsea's Christian Pulisic with the only goal to get them through and into the Round of 16, which was totally worth the subsequent hospital trip after he suffered an abdominal injury while scoring.
Group C: Argentina (Q), Poland (Q), Mexico, Saudi Arabia
The first game of Group C definitely kicked-off with a bang and resulted in the biggest upset in World Cup history. A well-organised, efficient, dogged and creatively-charged Saudi Arabia team managed by Hervé Renard beat tournament favourites Argentina by two goals to one. Lionel Messi opened the scoring in the 10th minute from the spot, whilst Argentina scored a further two times—both of which were ruled out for offside. It would be something they would go on to regret, for two wonder goals by Saleh Al-Shehri and captain Salem Al-Dawsari in the second-half gave Argentina an unexpected wake up call.
Poland versus Mexico. Lewandowski versus Ochoa. One of the most prolific strikers never to have scored in a World Cup, coming up against a veteran ‘keeper that always seems to come alive in this competition. And some things don’t change, it seems. Lewa had the opportunity to win the game from the spot, but cat-like reflexes from Ochoa, diving low to his left, kept Poland at bay and Mexico in with a chance. The Barça man did, eventually, get his goal against Saudi Arabia as they ran out 2-0 winners.
Argentina-Mexico, meanwhile, was a doozy. Tense, cagey, and nail-bitingly impossible to see who would come out on top. But then. Ah. Then, you remember that one team has what no other is lucky enough to possess: Leo Messi. Outta nowhere, Messi went full Randy Orton, almost RKOing the ball low from range and nestled it into the bottom corner, out of Ochoa's reach. From then, it was all Argentina. Messi, involved once more, set up the spectacular young talent, Enzo Fernández, who scored an even more spectacular looping goal to keep La Albiceleste in the contest.
Now, I'm not one for speculation, but it does seem extremely coincidental that Lionel Messi would miss a penalty against Poland, making the European side's goal difference +1 better than Mexico. Like, it's Messi. He doesn't often miss a penalty, and he's smart enough to know that a 2-0 loss for Poland would be better than a 3-0 loss. Maybe I just like the drama. Anyway. Argentina beat Poland 2-0, and Mexico scraped past Saudi Arabia 2-1, meaning Poland and Mexico both finished the group on 4 points—Poland with a Goal Difference of 0; Mexico -1. I'd be remiss not to mention Luis Chávez's goal—quite possibly one of the best free-kicks ever scored at a World Cup. Take a bow, my man.
Group D: France (Q), Australia (Q), Tunisia, Denmark
Some things are bigger than football. Group D marked Christian Eriksen’s return to major tournament football for the first time since suffering a cardiac arrest at Euro 2020. No matter how the group unfolded, there was a sense of happiness that extended from all corners as Eriksen took to the field. Tunisia proved tough competition for the Danes, with this game providing the first 0-0 draw of the tournament.
Defending champions, France, entered the World Cup without key players Presnel Kimpembe, N’golo Kanté, Paul Pogba, Christopher Nkunku and the 2022 Ballon d’Or winner, Karim Benzema. That being said, you’d expect even a depleted France team to generally favour themselves against Australia, but within the opening ten minutes, the Aussies were ahead with a simply scintillating piece of counter-attacking football. Adding insult to literal injury, the awkward twist suffered by Lucas Hernandez in the goal’s build up ruled him out for the rest of the tournament. Normal play resumed shortly after however, more precisely from the moment phenom Kylian Mbappé decided to kick on. He was involved in the build up for Adrien Rabiot’s brilliant goal, got on the scoresheet himself and then assisted Olivier Giroud’s record-equalling finish, making the latter France men’s joint all-time goalscorer with Thierry Henry.
It was Mbappé who once again picked up the plaudits in the next round of games, with his brace coming either side of an Andreas Christiansen goal to put France top of their group and through to the Round of 16. Australia trumped Tunisia 1-0, a single goal from Mitchell Duke proving decisive.
France went into their final group game with essentially an entirely different XI, likely as they had already qualified and weren't too fussed about what would happen against Tunisia. They lost 1-0. The elation of beating the World Champions was short-lived for Tunisia however, as Australia pulled off a shock upset, beating Denmark to qualify in second place. Eriksen and co finished bottom of the group, with only a single point to their name.
Group E: Japan (Q), Spain (Q), Germany, Costa Rica
Group E was the one that excited me. Whilst Spain and Germany were favourites to qualify, Costa Rica and Japan were definitely two teams that could offer the unexpected. And didn't they just? Japan turned around a 1-nil deficit to emphatically beat Germany 2-1—the second big upset of the tournament and we weren't even close to the knockout rounds! Costa Rica, on the other hand, failed to turn up against Spain, losing 7-0 in the process. Gavi became the youngest player ever to score in a World Cup tournament for Spain, and third youngest of all-time, aged 18 years and 110 days. Costa Rica, rather less fortunately, became the first team to not have a shot on goal in a World Cup game in thirty-two years, whilst Spain’s 82% possession was the most in a game since 1966.
Spain-Germany could’ve gone either way. Spain, complacent, could come up against a determined German side that needed to salvage their reputation. Or, a bulldozing Spanish contingent would do to Germany what Germany did to Brazil in 2014. It turned out, neither would be the case. What we did witness, however, was the best game of technical football seen thus far. The defences were sound, the midfields strong, and the attacks potent when called upon. It was two substitutes in Álvaro Morata and Niclas Füllkrug that proved pivotal to the game, both scoring to see out a 1-1 draw, but what a draw it was. It blew the group wide open, with Spain on four points, Japan and Costa Rica on three, and Germany bottom with one.
The final round? Talk about knife edge. This evening provided the biggest rollercoaster on record since Six Flags. Spain went into half-time 1-0 up against Japan, whilst Germany were ahead against Costa Rica. Japan, again, managed to pull level and take the lead against Spain, and Costa Rica equalised, meaning Spain and Japan would go through. Costa Rica then took the lead, meaning Japan and Costa Rica would go through. Germany then managed to score three, meaning they would go level on points with Spain but thanks to Spain’s superior goal difference, Germany could still be knocked out. Germany, therefore, needed Spain to win to stand any chance of qualifying above Japan. Alas, Moriyasu’s side stayed firm and finished TOP of the group, with Spain second. The kicker, though, was that Japan’s winning goal—which ultimately knocked Germany out—was marred in controversy. The ball, played across the face of the goal by Ritsu Doan, seemingly crossed the line before it was put back in for Ao Tanaka to score. FIFA, strangely, didn’t show any other angles bar the one replay—to any broadcaster in the world—which seemed to indicate the ball clearly had crossed the line. The on-pitch VAR apparently were adamant that whatever they saw was enough to give the goal. Basically, the whole evening was fucking wild.
The rules stipulate that as long as the curvature of the ball is disrupting the line, the ball is still in play. Talk about the finest of margins. I need a drink.
Group F: Morocco (Q), Croatia (Q), Belgium, Canada
While Croatia versus Morocco isn’t exactly a fixture to get you out of bed (or work) for, you’d think with players like Modrić, Gvardiol, Perišič, Kramarić, Hakimi, Amrabat, Ounahi, Ziyech and Boufal on the pitch that it would be at least moderately entertaining. Nope. 0-0. Even Sky Sports described the draw as turgid. Turgid. Bro, do you realise how bad you have to play to be called turgid?
Belgium lived up to their billing, and by billing I mean being serial underperformers. Despite being ranked as the 2nd best nation in the world, the pre-match talk in build-up to their second game was focused entirely on the team’s age, with players including talisman Kevin de Bruyne and Eden Hazard stating they were 'too old' to be competitive.
It’s as if they gave up before even giving it a go, losing 2-0 to Morocco — the Atlas Lions picking up only their third-ever victory in the finals. After missing a penalty, Alphonso Davies became the first-ever Canadian to score in the World Cup, with a brilliant finish against an otherwise hard to break Croatian team. The lead was cut out just before half-time with two exceptional team goals, finished by the in-form Andrej Kramarić and Marko Livaja. Kramarić scored in the second half also, giving Croatia a 4-1 victory whilst condemning Canada to elimination. In the post-match interview, he went on to say: "I want to thank the Canada coach for the motivation. In the end, Croatia demonstrated who F'd whom." Yikes.
Unlike Group E, the finale of this one was a little more palatable. Morocco beat Canada 2-1, making them the first African team to top their group since Nigeria in 1998. The result also meant that Canada lost every single game they've played in the World Cup. A 0-0 draw between Croatia and Belgium was enough to see Croatia through in second place, and the likely end of Belgium's Golden Generation.
Group G: Brazil (Q), Switzerland (Q), Cameroon, Serbia
Just when the favourites looked like they wouldn’t be able to overcome Serbia, cometh the hour, cometh the pigeon. A Richarlison brace—the first of which channelled prime Pipo Inzaghi, whilst the second was a simply irresistible touch and acrobatic finish, up there as one of the goals of the tournament—was enough to settle the nerves. Which was all the more important given Neymar’s shoddy luck with injuries in major tournaments. An ankle knock would rule him out for the next two games.
Cameroon, meanwhile, took Serbia to the wire and the two countries produced the game of the tournament so far, following 'keeper André Onana's dismissal by Rigobert Song for not playing the way they wanted in their opener. Song's side side took the lead, Castelletto with the goal before Serbia turned it around in stoppage time in the first half. Mitrović (who did have both legs in tact, for the record) put Serbia 3-1 up before Vincent Aboubakar came on and turned the game on its head again, scoring quite possibly one of the best goals I've seen—a deft, cool-as-you-like chip-cum-lob over the flailing keeper. A follow-up from Choupo-Moting three minutes later meant the game ended 3-3, which, as fun as it was, didn’t do much to help either side. Brazil—sans Neymar—took on a Swiss team that beat Cameroon in the opening game, and were likely to cause A Seleção a few issues—which they did, right up until the 83rd minute thanks to an absolute screamer from Manchester United’s Casemiro. It was all to play for in the last round, with Cameroon on one point coming up against the Brazilians, and Serbia, also on one point, facing Switzerland with three points on the board.
I opted to watch Brazil versus Cameroon for the vibes, but it turned out, everyone that did missed a trick. Four goals were scored in the first half between Serbia and Switzerland, whereas the first goal in the Brazil game didn't come until the 92nd minute—and it wasn't even Brazil that scored. Captain and talisman Aboubakar's goal saw the Indomitable Lions beat favourites Brazil, and he was rewarded with a second yellow having taken his top off to celebrate.
Group H: Portugal (Q), Korea Republic (Q), Uruguay, Ghana
In the opening week of the World Cup, there was news from Manchester United that Cristiano Ronaldo's club contracted was to be terminated, following his explosively unnecessary 90-minute interview with Piers Morgan. Nevertheless, the stacked Portuguese squad kept their heads down and calmly went about their business for their opener, beating a slightly undercooked Ghana side without much struggle. Uruguay and Korea Republic saw out a bore draw.
The second round of games were marvellously entertaining—Ghana and Korea Republic went down to the wire, with Ghana coming up trumps, 3-2, while two goals from Bruno Fernandes saw Portugal qualify with flying colours—and yet, it still seemed like the teams were trying to get the matches out of the way in order to get to the game that everyone wanted to see: Ghana versus Uruguay.
It had to be them. Luis Suárez (who also joined Cristiano in coming into the World Cup without a club), so much the villain in this particular story, got himself sent-off in 2010 for a deliberate off-the-line handball clearance to ensure Uruguay could hold on to a draw, which they did after Asamoah Gyan hit the crossbar from the following penalty kick. Although Gyan rectified that in the penalty shootout, the South Americans would go on to eliminate Ghana and proceed through to the next round. It was a bitter pill to swallow, even now. In a recent interview, the legendary Gyan stated that he beared no grudge, as he would’ve done the same thing. Even so, the build up to the game only focused on that one incident, along with the fact that whoever won would likely be the team that joined Portugal into the next round.
The term déjà vu was a poignant one. Twelve years on from that infamous match, Ghana found themselves in the same situation: a chance for their captain to score from the spot. A staggered run up from André Ayew followed by a tame shot saw the penalty easily saved. Uruguay capitalised with a brace from Giorgian de Arrascaeta—their first goals of the tournament. In a delicious twist, an 85th minute goal by Hwang Hee-chan against Portugal meant that Uruguay needed to score a third goal to go through on goal difference. Aaaaand they didn't. Ghana may have been eliminated, but they most certainly took solace in a visibly upset Suárez on the Uruguayan bench.
The Round of 16 Given how many upsets the tournament had already thrown up at this stage, the Cup was anyone’s for the taking. With the 10am kick offs in the UK now over, it meant most of us had our mornings back before settling in for an afternoon and evening of mouthwatering fixtures. Up first: Netherlands versus the USA. The team from Europe were strong favourites, and although the game wasn't exactly comfortable, they progressed to the quarters winning 3-1—goals from Depay, Blind and Dumfries, with a consolation from Haji Wright. Australia also gave Argentina a run for their money, but as always, such is the magic of Messi that in his 1,000th professional game he turned it on once again, opening the scoring, winning 2-1 and keeping him in with a chance of winning the trophy that’s alluded him all throughout his glittering career. France versus Poland provided another milestone — Olivier Giroud’s goal took him outright as France men’s all-time leading goal scorer, but that wasn’t all. A brace by killer Kylian saw him overtake Pelé for most goals scored in the men’s World Cup by a player under the age of 24. England were largely favourites against Senegal and won 3-0 with goals from Henderson, Saka and Harry Kane who opened his account. Japan against Croatia was a tightly contested fixture—so much so that it went to penalties, and it was at that point where Japan forgot how to play. A shame, given how formidable they had been all throughout the tournament.
Korea Republic, contrastingly, forgot how to play from the starting minute, shipping four goals to Brazil in the opening half. It seemed normal play was resuming. That was, however, up until Spain came up against Morocco. The African side showed just how good they are, and how much Spain are still a work-in-progress. They were unlucky not to have won the game outright within the 90 minutes, and in defence of Spain, they held firm right until the penalties. The scenes of Ashraf Hakimi embracing his mother, having panenka'd the winning penalty, will live long in the memory. The final game of the round just underlined how bonkers this World Cup was. Portugal versus Switzerland on paper was always going to be a close match up, but tell that to Gonçalo Ramos. The striker, replacing Cristiano Ronaldo who was controversially dropped, decided to bag a hat-trick—the first of the tournament—contributing to a 6-1 victory. Bonkers.
Brazil vs. Croatia showcased the best of skill, control, flair, holding shape and game management. Brazil kept knocking at the door, each time being denied by Dominik Livaković, whilst Croatia’s midfield dominated. It took an incredible team goal, finished by Neymar in the 106th minute of extra-time which almost decided it—taking him level with Pelé as Brazil men’s all-time goal scorer. With four minutes left of extra-time remaining, a relentless Croatian team equalised—Bruno Petković with the goal—taking the first quarter-final to penalties. Incredibly, Rodrygo’s opening miss followed by a howler from Marquinhos meant Croatia knocked out tournament favourites, 4-2, and progressed via penalties once more.
Argentina - Netherlands was a delightful billing, and despite the Dutch authority in the backline, they were no match for, well, you know. Leo picked out a pass that dumbfounded the stadium, commentators, fans watching at home as well as the Netherlands defence, to find Nahuel Molina who opened the scoring. After converting a penalty not long after, the game was in Argentina's hands. Louis van Gaal had other plans, though. By bringing on the big guns in 6'2" Luuk de Jong and 6'6" Wout Weghorst, plus throwing 6'5" Virgil van Dijk up top, Netherlands pulled a goal back via a Weghorst header, to Argentina's evident frustration. Leandro Paredes made a terribly late challenge on Nathan Aké which should’ve been a yellow, and proceeded to smash the ball into the Netherlands bench (which should’ve been another yellow). VVD then clattered Paredes (which I thought was a yellow—it was even displayed on TV—but all match reports have omitted this, so I've definitely missed something) and all hell broke loose. THEN. Netherlands won a free kick in the 11th minute of stoppage time. Instead of a direct shot, Koopmeiners dummied and played the ball into Weghorst in the box to score his second and send the game into extra-time and penalties.
Emi Martínez, the modern day king of absolute shithousery, saved the opening two spot kicks and Argentina did what Brazil couldn’t, progressing to the semi-finals. A total of sixteen yellow cards were brandished through the game, with Denzel Dumfries picking up a second yellow in the post-shootout melee. Argentina became the most successful team in World Cup penalty shootouts, having won five times.
With Morocco on cloud nine having knocked out former champions Spain, they now came up against Spain's neighbours in Portugal, also going into the game on solid foundations, with Cristiano on the bench once more—dropped in favour of hat-trick hero Ramos. There wasn’t much to report until the 42nd minute, when Youssef En-Nesyri towered over the Portuguese defence to send Morocco into the lead. The rest of the game consisted primarily of Portugal’s XI falling over whenever the air conditioning blew, and cutaways to Cristiano grimacing on the bench. CR7 did eventually make an appearance in the 50th minute, equalling the FIFA record of most international appearances in the men’s game, equalling Kuwait’s Bader Al-Mutawa. But that stat paled in comparison to Morocco's 1-0 victory, which made them the first ever African, Arab and Muslim nation to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup. They'd go on to play the victors of France vs. England.
Off to a rocky start, England conceded to a wonder strike from Aurélien Tchouaméni in the first half, before Harry Kane scored from the spot early in the second, equalling Wayne Rooney's record as England men’s top scorer. Giroud regained the lead for France before The Three Lions won another penalty, only this time Kane skied it over Hugo Lloris’s goal. It's still floating somewhere out there in the solar system. France saw out the remaining minutes and England were eliminated in the quarters for the 7th time—the most in World Cup history.
The semi-finals were set. Argentina and Messi up against Croatia and Modrić, whilst Morocco in turn faced reigning champions, France. A cagey affair at first, and an uncharacteristic lapse of judgement from Joško Gvardiol who failed to track a break by Julián Álvarez allowed the striker to dink it over Livaković. Álvarez seemingly clattered into the keeper in the process, and was awarded a penalty after the Croatia defence cleared their lines. Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Lionel Messi smashed it into the top corner, 1-0, overtaking Gabriel Batistuta as Argentina men's all-time leading World Cup goalscorer. I, having backed Croatia to dominate the game, subsequently lost all three bets I had put on the game. Thanks for that, Leo.
Moments later, Álvarez powered through the Croatian defence on the counter, and with some fortunate ricochets, put Argentina 2-0 up. The second-half came and Leo made Gvardiol—arguably the best young player of the tournament—look like Titus Bramble on a bad day, skirting past him in the box before setting up Álvarez for his second goal of the game. If ever there was debate about Messi’s natural successor in the national team, we’ve certainly got the answer. For the time being though, all eyes were on LM10 as Argentina progressed into the final.
Full disclosure, I actually missed France’s opener as I assumed there was no way either side would score within the first five minutes. Lo and behold, Theo, who replaced his brother Lucas after injury, acrobatically improvised his effort following a scrappy build-up and put the Champions in front—much to the dismay of everyone who wasn’t French. The only advantage was that there was loads of time left for Morocco to settle in and pull one back. Despite dominating at parts, it wasn’t to be for the Atlas Lions, as Randal Kolo Muani scored merely seconds (16 to be exact) after coming on as a substitute to put France two goals up after 79 minutes. Not a bad debut.
Whatever happened in the final one thing was sure: Qatar definitely served up a thrilling tournament—arguably one of the most exciting on record, with several said records broken. Argentina went in with the aim of bagging Leo the trophy he's always wanted, whereas France had the opportunity to retain the title for the first time since Brazil in 1958 and '62. I didn't think at any point would there be a game that would out-game Argentina vs. Netherlands, but boy was I wrong.
A lively opening though without much in it, sprang to life in the 20th minute mark when Ángel di María rolled back the years, skirting through the defence to win a (slightly tame) penalty which Messi, of course, converted. This in turn took Messi outright as the player with the most goal contributions in the men’s tournament (20). He also became the first player to score in the group stage, round of 16, quarters, semis and final of a single tournament. Argentina continued the pressure and were duly rewarded: another masterful Messi through ball into the path of Brighton’s Alexis Mac Allister was cooly rolled across the face of the goal for Di María to make it 2. Surprisingly, Giroud and Dembélé were hauled off on the 40th minute mark—potentially due to the illness that swept through the team prior to the final—and were replaced by Marcus Thuram and Kolo Muani.
The remainder of the game was total domination from Argentina right up until the 79th minute. Another tame penalty was given, and Kylian Mbappé pulled one back from nowhere. Ten minutes to go, game on. Messi then lost the ball to Coman, and all of a sudden, 1 minute and 35 seconds later, Mbappé absolutely lamps a first time volley over his shoulder to level it, when everyone assumed he’d square the ball—which he should've. It was something out of FIFA. Honestly, I couldn’t understand what I saw for five minutes after.
The best game of the tournament went into extra-time, and in the opening minutes of the second half, an absolute goal line frenzy saw Messi smash the ball in, despite Upamecano’s best attempts to clear the line. Argentina's Montiel then handballed it in his penalty area! Kylian Mbappé, in the 118th minute scored—a fucking hat-trick in the final—and I think everyone I knew watching the game simultaneously lost their shit. The frenetic energy of the game gave Randal Kolo Muani a one-on-one opportunity to win it at the death, but for an exceptional save from Martínez. He said he'd die for Messi, and boy did he prove that.
The game went to penalties, which, given the overwhelming Argentine support in the stands, plus the mindfuckery of Emi Martínez, the game suddenly swung back in Argentina's favour. The tournament's top scorer, Mbappé, stepped up first and scored—the ice in his kid's veins would make Arnie's Mr. Freeze shiver. Leo slotted home his nation's opener. Misses from France's Coman and Tchouameni, plus converted attempts from Dybala and Paredes meant that Gonzalo Montiel, the man who gave away the penalty in the game, had the opportunity to win it for Lionel Messi and his nation. And of course he did.
© via VERSUS/Twitter
Undoubtedly the greatest FIFA World Cup Final on record. We've never seen anything like it before, and probably won't ever again.
Golden Boot: Kylian Mbappé, 8 Golden Ball: Lionel Messi
Golden Glove: Emi Martínez
The Accessible Magazine's Best of the Tournament... Game: Argentina vs. France Goal: Wout Weghorst (second goal) vs. Argentina Team: Morocco Player: Kylian Mbappé
Young Player: Jude Bellingham One To Watch: Azzedine Ounahi XI: Livaković (CRO); Upamecano (FRA), Gvardiol (CRO), T. Hernandez (FRA); Amrabat (MAR), Griezmann (FRA), Bellingham (ENG), Ounahi (MAR); Messi (ARG), Mbappé (FRA), Giroud (FRA)
Managers Sacked/Resigned Post World Cup: Roberto Martínez (BEL), Tite (BRA), Otto Addo (GHA), Paulo Bento (KOR), Tata Martino (MEX), Czeslaw Michiewicz (POL), Fernando Santos (POR), Luis Enrique (ESP).