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Lionel Messi completes football in the greatest World Cup final in history.

History was made on Sunday 18th December at the Lusail Stadium, as Lionel Messi captained Argentina to World Cup victory in Qatar.


Messi collected the final accolade missing in his illustrious trophy cabinet, the World Cup trophy. He did this in style, breaking the record for World Cup appearances (26) and becoming the only player ever to win two ‘Golden Balls’ (player of the tournament awards).

Argentina seemed in control for the first 80 minutes of the match, and goals from Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria gave them the lead. Then France’s mercurial talent Kylian Mbappe inspired an against-all-odds comeback.


The PSG superstar hit a quickfire double, netting two goals in as many minutes to draw Les Bleus level.


An intense extra time followed, and Messi got his brace sending the Argentina fans into raptures. The party was gate-crashed by Kylian Mbappe yet again, who’s ice-cold strike from the penalty spot caused Argentinian heartbreak once again.


The game couldn’t be decided after 120 minutes of open play, and a penalty shootout would decide the winner. Argentina held their nerve and won 4-2 to win their first World Cup in over 30 years.


Messi completed football that day. He is a true icon of the sport and is widely considered the greatest of all time, even more so now he’s captained his nation to glory on the biggest stage of all. So, where did it all begin?


Messi’s story is an incredible one, a story that defied all odds, and it very nearly ended before it even began. Messi was born in Rosario, Argentina, and was rarely seen without a football at his feet.

It was also in Rosario where Messi met his wife, Antonela Roccuzzo. The childhood sweethearts blossomed before Messi made his fame as a professional footballer and started off as friends so young, introduced to each other by one of Messi’s teammates at Newell’s Old Boys.

They now have 3 children together, Thiago, Mateo and Ciro. The couple almost lost touch when Messi moved to Spain, but rekindled their relationship when Messi booked a flight home to comfort Antonela after she tragically lost her best friend.


To say he didn’t experience fame from a young age isn’t entirely accurate, as the future star became a local hero. Old coaches stated to the BBC that they had never seen anything like him before, and they knew that he was special, but they thought somewhere else in Argentina there must have been kids replicating Messi’s skills.


Messi was nicknamed ‘the next Maradona’ in his village. One story was recalled by one of his ex-coaches, where young Messi’s team was losing in a tournament final 2-0, which he had turned up late to. Parents began cheering and clapping upon Messi’s fashionably late arrival, as Messi was substituted on and won the game for his team 3-2.

He played at a club called Grandoli, which was coached by his father, from the age of five and later moved to Newell’s Old Boys.


At age 11, reality struck. Lionel was diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency that required a lot of treatment, which was not cheap.


This nightmare quickly turned into one of football’s greatest love stories, as Messi’s parents took him to Spain to have a trial at Barcelona.

Barcelona saw so much potential in the child that they agreed to pay for his treatment, offering the contract on a napkin with no paper to hand. Perhaps this could be why Messi paid back so much loyalty to Barcelona over the course of his career, a clear personality trait of his.


It is safe to say that Barcelona got a return on their investment, though, with Messi shining the brightest in team after team full of football’s greatest stars, including Ronaldinho, Neymar, Suarez, Xavi, Iniesta and Samuel Eto’o.


Messi have had a simply astounding career, which will never be recreated. 793 goals, 42 team titles and a record 7 Ballon d’Ors later, Lionel Messi only had one space left in his trophy cabinet.

Could Messi be the greatest of all time without lifting the World Cup like Pele and Maradona? Can he be considered the greatest without the greatest trophy of all?


What Messi would give for just one winner's medal. Argentina's sparse trophy haul has held him back, in some eyes, from sitting alongside Diego Maradona and Pele. It is certainly harsh, given both his breathtaking performances and longevity at an elite level, but such is the compromise of a team game like football.


Messi had been as close as you could get to the trophy. In Brazil, World Cup 2014, Messi captained his nation to a World Cup final, but his dreams were robbed in extra time by Mario Gotze, who won the tournament for the Germans.

In his final World Cup, on the biggest stage, the pressure could not amount higher. Could he complete football? Could he end his career with a record 7 Balon d’Ors – potentially more – with a World Cup winners medal? Surely it was too good to be true, or was it written in the stars?


Sunday 18th December – The Lusail Stadium


Messi came into the final game in Qatar as joint top scorer with his PSG teammate Kylian Mbappe – representing France – who also had something to prove. He would become the youngest player ever to win the World Cup twice in a row, the stars had aligned and there couldn’t be more riding on this match.


The first 80 minutes were performed from Scaloni’s script. With 23 minutes on the clock, Messi opened the scoring with the first penalty of the game after Dembele foul on Di Maria.


Just 13 minutes later, Di Maria added a second on the counter attack for Argentina after a pass from McAllister of the highest standard delivery.

With 41 minutes on the clock, the French were panicked. Former World Cup winning manager Didier Deschamps was taking off the pitch all-time top France goal scorer Olivier Giroud and Barcelona livewire Ousmane Dembele. Thuram and Kolo Muani replaced the pair.


With 10 minutes to play, Argentina were 2 goals to the good, and all but there. This was until Kylian Mbappe woke up, producing one of the most memorable fightbacks in football history.


The first goal, scored in the 80th minute, was a penalty. It was dispatched with the most ice-cool nerves by Mbappe, and he put Argentinian hearts in mouths.


It wasn’t long until he broke them hearts, just one minute later, he shattered Messi’s dream, stunning the world with a volley of the highest calibre. Two goals in as many minutes of pure mayhem went France’s way.

Extra time followed, where Messi took the game back to Argentina, nudging the ball over the line in the 108th minute.


Mbappe then got his World Cup hat-trick with a 117th equaliser after he won a penalty from a Montiel handball. The game was being decided by penalties.


It was the penalty shootout where hat-trick hero Mbappe’s World Cup ended in the most inglorious despair. For Messi, he finished the tournament as a World Champion, 7 goals and a ‘Golden Ball’. He is the only player to ever to finish two World Cup tournaments with the ‘Player of the Tournament’ award twice.


History was made on Sunday 18th December at the Lusail Stadium, as Lionel Messi captained Argentina to World Cup victory in Qatar.

History.

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