It was a three star game. Who, France or Argentina, was going to win a third title of world champion? Lionel Messi’s Argentina (after 1978 and 1986)? Or Kylian Mbappé’s France (after 1998 and 2018)?
Four years after Moscow, France could win a second title in a row, an unprecedented performance since the Brazil of Pelé, Vava and Garrincha in 1962. Opposite, Argentina led by a Lionel Messi in search of the title which was missing: the world title. At the end of a long one-way match (Argentina) and totally unbridled in its last part, it is Argentina who wins on penalties, after an extension ended with the score of 3- 3 and a breathtaking scenario.
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The coach of France, Didier Deschamps, had managed to align his standard team, despite the physical glitches and the viruses, with Olivier Giroud, Kylian Mbappé and Ousmane Dembélé in attack and a central defense composed of Raphaël Varane and Dayot Upamecano. But from the start of the match, France suffers: Argentina dominates in intensity and aggressiveness, and keeps the ball, which materializes in the 22nd minute: penalty for Argentina, after a foul by Dembélé on Di Maria . Lionel Messi transforms for his 97th goal in selection in 172 selections. He then took the lead in the scorers’ rankings in the competition, although he had already been Argentina’s top scorer in the World Cup since the semi-final.
A quarter of an hour later, France is still suffering. A loss of beauty in the Argentinian half of the field turns into a flash goal from the Albiceleste: Angel Di Maria concludes a school action after an opening from Messi and a relay from Mac Allister.
Changes from the first half
France took the water and Deschamps decided to make two changes even before the end of the first half, from the 40th minute. Dembélé and Giroud leave, replaced by Thuram and Kolo Muani: it is, much earlier, the double change made in the second half against Morocco and which had resulted in the second French goal. The Blues recover a little before half-time but without effect: 2-0 for Argentina at the break, after a one-sided first period, where France did not shoot once on goal. Argentinians “have actually played a World Cup final”, loose Deschamps at the microphone of TF1, after returning from the locker room.
The start of the second half slackened in intensity, Argentina eased off a bit but the Blues did not take advantage of it and it was the Ciel et Blancs who were most often dangerous. Gradually, France resumed a little sitting and tried a few shots. In the 70th minute, Deschamps reorganized his team again, leaving Griezmann, so successful in the semi-finals, and Hernandez for Coman and Camavinga.
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We did not see then what could turn this match; it switches however in two minutes. In the 78th minute, a French incursion resulted in a penalty, for a foul by Otamendi on Kolo Muani. Kylian Mbappé transforms, joins Messi in the ranking of scorers in the competition, and restores momentum to the Blues. Two minutes later, the Parisian alone took the lead in this scorer ranking: a recovery from Coman at the feet of Messi launched a quick attack concluded by Mbappé with a volley from the right. 2-2 with a good quarter of an hour remaining, and a match that suddenly changes the atmosphere. As against the Netherlands in the quarter-finals, Argentina, who saw victory approaching, was joined a few minutes from the end. France pushes, presses, but it is Messi who triggers the last thrill of regulation time, with a powerful strike forcing Lloris into a spectacular parade. After having played for two thirds of the match, France wins extra time.
Mbappé responds to Messi in extra time
In the first part of extra time, the Blues attacked but it was Argentina who was on the verge of scoring, Upamecano saving the day twice. And on the restart, it was Messi who restored the advantage to his team, taking the ball from close range after a first save from Lloris and despite a rescue attempt from Koundé from inside the goal. 3-2 in the 109th minute and the Argentinian striker finds Mbappé at the top of the scoring charts. Varane, exhausted, gives up his place in defense.
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But it could not end like this: France went on the attack again and on a corner, obtained a new penalty for a hand in the box. Mbappé assumes, does not tremble and scores his 3rd goal of the final, in the 118th minute, the 8th of the competition – he is again at the top of the scorer rankings, definitely this time. Both teams have match points at their feet in the dying minutes but it is indeed on penalties that this final will become unbreathable. And in this game, the Argentines are more effective: Coman and Tchouaméni miss their shot, Montiel does not tremble when concluding, Messi and his team are world champions.