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Ligue 1

World Cup roundup: Heartbreak for England, history for Morocco

The 2022 World Cup is in full swing. At the end of every matchday, we’ll review the biggest talking points emanating from Qatar and break down all the action on the pitch. Below, we look back on Saturday’s thrilling quarterfinal games.

Illustrious clash lives up to hype

The most anticipated matchup of the 2022 World Cup, at least to date, fulfilled fans’ expectations. These games so often fail to deliver the drama and excitement promised, but France’s 2-1 victory over England Saturday provided a variety of thrills and twists.

Aurelien Tchouameni opened the scoring with a bolt from the blue. England then took over, pinning France deep and looking more likely to win the match after Harry Kane’s equalizer from the spot. Then in the spirit of a true champion, Olivier Giroud delivered a sucker punch for France. England fought back only to see Kane’s second spot-kick balloon over the crossbar. Euphoria and relief for French fans. Despair for England. Shock for everyone else who has watched the assured striker successfully find the net with power and precision from 12 yards on countless occasions. The match – and emotions – fluctuated wildly. This was high-stakes tournament football at its best.

Julian Finney / Getty Images Sport / Getty

And a fascinating individual battle between Kylian Mbappe and Kyle Walker underpinned it all. What would Gareth Southgate concoct to slow down France’s irrepressible attacking force? His plan worked out for the most part, as Walker rarely ventured forward, sitting back to ensure Mbappe couldn’t exploit space on the break after France won the ball back. Luke Shaw pushed high on the left side to provide balance. The only time Walker did thrust up the field near the French penalty area in the first half, Mbappe pounced, helping to create Tchouameni’s goal in the other direction. Small moments were the game-changers, which is partially what made the contest so intriguing: It felt like it was on a knife edge the entire time.

The rip-roaring foot race between Mbappe and Walker in the second half, in which the Frenchman became one of the only players to ever leave his rapid counterpart in the dust, drew oohs and aahs from the crowd. Everyone was waiting to see it. Walker did a superb job of shutting Mbappe down overall – he didn’t have a shot on target – but the electric forward’s momentary flashes were still spellbinding.

The duel was a microcosm of the entire match: England outplayed France and largely shut the defending champion down but is still heading home heartbroken. The French picked their spots and remain in contention to retain their title, becoming the first reigning champion to reach the World Cup semifinals since 1998. Brief moments made the difference.

A new dawn for African football

The sight of a surly well-traveled foreign coach in charge of an African team has been a common sight for decades. Before Walid Regragui led Morocco to the 1-0 quarterfinal win over Portugal, the only managers to guide an African side to that World Cup stage were Russian (Valery Nepomnyashchy with Cameroon in 1990), French (Bruno Metsu with Senegal in 2002), and Serbian (Milovan Rajevac with Ghana in 2010).

Morocco itself has followed this approach. Of the five coaches to previously lead the country at the World Cup, only one was Moroccan.

But now, Morocco and its regional rivals – and the world by extension – should consider more coaches on the continent. Regragui, who represented Morocco as a player, is the first boss to take an African squad to the World Cup’s final four, and he’s done it by promoting tight bonds within a roster that was previously fragmented under his Bosnian predecessor Vahid Halilhodzic. Regragui built on the defensive foundations left behind while welcoming Hakim Ziyech and Noussair Mazraoui back into the fold, creating a strong unit that has conceded just one goal – and that was an own goal – throughout its five-game run.


Beating Portugal required some backs-to-the-wall defending and more goalkeeping heroics from Yassine Bounou – it was sometimes desperate. But the victory was another impressive one for an injury-riddled squad. There were last-ditch blocks and timely tackles, but there were also fine examples of evasive midfield play from Azzedine Ounahi and positivity from backup left-back Yahya Attiat-Allah. With better finishing from the substitutes, Morocco would’ve made it 2-0.

Regragui may have put African managers on more clubs’ and countries’ radars. His credentials were already impressive – two league titles in Morocco, the Moroccan Throne Cup, Qatar’s first division, and the African Champions League – but his subsequent success in Qatar should give more respect to his achievements with clubs outside of Europe.

It’s long been the case that Regragui, and other trophy-hoarding African tacticians like Pitso Mosimane, should be higher on big-spending clubs’ lists of targets when they’re on the lookout for a new manager. Regragui could accelerate Africa’s progress in the global game.

Portugal’s anger misguided

Tempers tend to run high after a loss, and more so at the World Cup than in any other football setting – no competition can match the emotional investment and, thus, the output. So it’s understandable players would be totally devastated after bowing out of the tournament, especially in a surprising fashion.

But post-match declarations from irate Portuguese pair Bruno Fernandes and Pepe that Argentine referee Facundo Tello was biased against Portugal because he wanted to make Argentina’s path to the title easier were misguided.

“I don’t know if they’re going to give the (World Cup) to Argentina,” Fernandes said. “I don’t care, I’m going to say what I think and screw them. It’s very strange that a referee from a team that’s still in the cup officiates us. They’ve clearly tilted the field against us.”

Francois Nel / Getty Images Sport / Getty

“I think what the referee did today – this is an Argentinian referee. After what Messi said yesterday, it seems there’s something very weird,” added Pepe, referencing Messi’s criticism of the officiating on Friday. “We couldn’t play in the second half because the referee kept stopping the game. I’m very angry, very angry because the referee didn’t let us play.”

After going behind just before the halftime interval, Portugal, despite finishing the match with a handful of attacking players on the pitch – including substitute Cristiano Ronaldo – only had two shots on target. Morocco’s lauded backline and airtight defensive block did their part – of course they did – but the Portuguese often played into the hands of the Atlas Lions, launching crosses into the box instead of playing through the lines. Time and again, towering defender Jawad El Yamiq rose high to head the ball away, forcing Portugal to start all over.

“I think we could have done more, and we failed to do so, so I don’t think we should blame the referee,” Fernando Santos said.

Santos is right. Portugal shouldn’t look for alibis. The team had only ever recorded one World Cup win when trailing at halftime – that came in 1966. After Diogo Costa’s error on Youssef En-Nesyri’s goal, Portugal didn’t do enough to double that total.

What’s next for Southgate?

Southgate can be credited for vaulting England into the 21st century and helping the football-crazed country believe the sport’s biggest prizes were “coming home” after successful runs at the 2018 World Cup and Euro 2020. But England’s wait for a major trophy continues, and despite his positive influence since arriving six years ago, the debate over Southgate’s future as head coach has already begun.

Failure to get the Three Lions over the hump in Qatar is especially damaging for Southgate, given that this is arguably the most talented English team in the 58 years since the nation last won the World Cup. A quarterfinal loss to France is nothing to be ashamed of, as England threatened Les Bleus’ title defense with a brave performance. But this could be the defeat that ends the career of the most successful – and longest-serving – English head coach since Sir Bobby Robson (1982-90).

Sebastian Frej/MB Media / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Ultimately, Kane’s gut-wrenching penalty miss will go down as the decisive moment that separated these two heavyweights. However, there were several instances in the game – and throughout the tournament – when Southgate’s tactics and loyalty to familiar players were questioned. He inexplicably preferred Mason Mount to Phil Foden early on in the tournament, while Marcus Rashford was never guaranteed a starting place despite looking like one of the squad’s sharpest forwards. And then there was the head-scratching substitution against France, removing Bukayo Saka in favor of Raheem Sterling amid the Arsenal star’s strong shift.

England’s World Cup drought will have extended to 60 years before it gets another crack. Whether Southgate will be at the helm remains to be seen. Declan Rice said he “loves” playing for Southgate and wants him to stay in charge, but the manager himself will “take a bit of time” to decide on his future. Stay tuned.

Quick free-kicks

France more than just Mbappe

Mbappe is human after all. The French phenom was uncharacteristically subdued against England, ceding possession on several occasions and failing to produce a single shot on target. It was a rare display of mediocrity from a player who’s developed a reputation for routinely blowing everyone’s minds with his unmatched brilliance on the pitch. At this stage in Mbappe’s career, any opposing team that can keep him off the scoresheet should claim that as a victory. Unfortunately for England, though, France showed Saturday it doesn’t need Mbappe’s greatness to win big games. His lingering threat to burst out of nowhere with a goal obviously helps distract opponents, but Les Bleus are so stacked with talent that they can withstand brief episodes without Mbappe tearing teams to shreds. It’s unlikely the soon-to-be 24-year-old will put on another display like that in back-to-back games, but the French are in safe hands with Antoine Griezmann and Giroud, a pair who’ve played considerable roles in France’s return to the semifinals.

Titanic tussle on the cards

After taking on Walker Saturday, Mbappe’s next task will be even more difficult, as he’ll go toe-to-toe with Achraf Hakimi in the semifinals. The two friends – club teammates at Paris Saint-Germain – are two of the fastest and most explosive players in world football. Their tussles on the training pitch in Paris are surely a sight to behold – if your eyes can keep up with two speedy blurs racing back and forth, of course. Now we all get to see what those battles are like on one of the sport’s grandest stages. Get your popcorn ready.

England will be back

England, after falling behind to Tchouameni’s audacious strike, dictated play against the reigning world champion for large stretches. The Three Lions outplayed France, created better chances, and often looked more likely to score. This was one of the best performances of Southgate’s entire tenure – and England lost anyway. That’s the harsh reality of tournament football. This sport can be cruel. But the pieces are in place for the English to be a force at major tournaments for years to come. Rice, Foden, Saka, Mount, Rashford, Trent Alexander-Arnold, and Jude Bellingham are all 25 or younger. So is Reece James, who missed the tournament through injury. The future remains exceedingly bright for an England squad still learning what it takes to win on the biggest stage. That takes time. The Three Lions will be back.

Stat of the day

Barring a shocking twist in 2026 – when he’ll be 41 years old – Ronaldo’s illustrious career will end without a World Cup knockout goal.

Tweet of the day

“Waka Waka.”

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Ligue 1

Team of the tournament: Best XI at 2022 World Cup

With the 2022 World Cup coming to an end, theScore assembles the competition’s best lineup with the tournament’s top-performing stars.

Emiliano Martinez ??

Whenever Argentina needed him, he was there. That statement is true of Lionel Messi, of course, but it also applies to Martinez, who rescued his team on multiple occasions en route to winning the World Cup. When Australia had a chance to equalize in the last 16, Martinez stood tall. When the Netherlands threatened to complete an improbable comeback in a shootout, Martinez stepped up. And when France had a golden opportunity to rip the title away in the final with almost the last kick of extra time, Martinez was there, making one of the biggest saves in tournament history.

Honorable mention: Dominik Livakovic (Croatia)

Theo Hernandez ??

Hernandez made his World Cup debut when Lucas, his older brother, tore his ACL. Lucas suffered the injury on the play that led to Australia’s shocking opener against France, leaving Theo as the obvious replacement at the left-back position. Theo wasted no time, needing just 14 minutes to set up the equalizer, and spent the rest of that 4-1 win commanding that left flank. Theo consolidated his place in the starting lineup, and after conceding a cheap penalty in the quarterfinals, the AC Milan full-back recovered to score early in the semifinal against Morocco.

Honorable mention: Aziz Behich (Australia)

Josko Gvardiol ??

DeFodi Images / DeFodi Images / Getty

Gvardiol already reads the game like a grizzled veteran at the age of 20, and his intimidating physicality – he’s broad-shouldered, 6-foot-1, and a fierce competitor – is paired with supreme ability with the ball at his feet. Only France’s Aurelien Tchouameni produced more interceptions at the World Cup than Gvardiol, and the defender ranked third for total passes by a Croatian behind Marcelo Brozovic and Luka Modric. RB Leipzig were already demanding a huge transfer fee for Gvardiol, but his price tag has skyrocketed courtesy of his authoritative showings in Zlatko Dalic’s backline.

Honorable mention: Nathan Ake (Netherlands)

Nicolas Otamendi ??

Only two outfield players featured in every single minute of Argentina’s victorious World Cup campaign. You can probably guess the first one, but Otamendi likely wouldn’t immediately come to mind as the other. The veteran defender, 34, was ever-present for Lionel Scaloni’s team, anchoring a rugged backline in what was likely his final World Cup. Once a rash and undisciplined player susceptible to glaring mistakes, Otamendi was the most tranquil of Argentina’s defenders in Qatar, trading in wild tackles for well-timed interceptions that helped the Albiceleste get on the front foot.

Honorable mention: Harry Maguire (England)

Achraf Hakimi ??

Hakimi’s lung-busting runs down the right usually draw the most attention, but he was a defensive rock in Qatar. He led the tournament with 26 completed tackles and produced the third-most interceptions by a defender (nine). That’s not to write off his work as unadventurous: He attempted 15 dribbles and was Morocco’s second-most creative player with six key passes. The 24-year-old’s confidence was overflowing as one of Morocco’s main men, and he cheekily downed Spain – where he was born and raised – with a Panenka penalty to conclude the shootout in the round of 16.

Honorable mention: Josip Juranovic (Croatia)

Sofyan Amrabat ??

Martin Rickett – PA Images / PA Images / Getty

Morocco asked Amrabat to do a bit of everything, and every time, he delivered. The 26-year-old breathed down the necks of his opponents and negotiated ways out of danger without breaking a sweat. His stock rose further as Morocco beat Belgium, Spain, and Portugal, displaying to a wider audience what many in Italy had already gathered. Rarely putting a foot wrong, the Fiorentina midfielder ended the tournament with just one yellow card to his name, a worthwhile achievement for a player who found himself in the trenches for seven matches.

Honorable mention: Enzo Fernandez (Argentina)

Luka Modric ??

Modric seemed human in the round of 16. With 99 minutes gone in Croatia’s meeting with Japan, the fleet-footed midfielder was clearly fatigued when he was substituted. At 37, that’s to be expected. But from nowhere, Modric found extra energy reserves for the knockout matches against Brazil and Argentina, seeming omnipresent while he swept up defensively and created chances at the other end. In what was likely his last World Cup appearance, the Real Madrid star reminded everybody why he’s one of the greatest midfielders of all time while playing 656 out of a possible 690 minutes.

Honorable mention: Jude Bellingham (England)

Antoine Griezmann ??

When France lost N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba to injury, head coach Didier Deschamps turned to Griezmann. He knew the star center-forward could handle the workload in midfield. Few players have ever been as reliable to a single cause: Griezmann’s played in each of France’s last 73 matches, and he’s filled various roles in the five-and-a-half years since his streak began. France wouldn’t have made as deep of a run in Qatar without Griezmann’s work rate, off-the-ball movement, and defensive awareness.

Honorable mention: Bruno Fernandes (Portugal)

Kylian Mbappe ??

Catherine Ivill / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Nobody was more electrifying during the World Cup than Mbappe. France had no business pushing the final against Argentina to extra time, let alone a shootout, but the insatiable forward took it upon himself to will Les Bleus to within a whisker of successive titles. His 97-second brace, even in a losing cause, will live long in the memory. The Golden Boot winner with eight goals, including his remarkable hat-trick in the final, Mbappe has now found the net 12 times in just two tournaments. He turns 24 tomorrow. The men’s all-time World Cup scoring record is in serious jeopardy.

Honorable mention: Richarlison (Brazil)

Julian Alvarez ??

Prior to the World Cup, Alvarez was tipped to blossom into a superstar for Argentina. It just wasn’t supposed to happen this quickly at this tournament. With Lautaro Martinez struggling, the 22-year-old was thrust into the spotlight. He excelled in the role, scoring four goals in five starts and, crucially, doing huge amounts of work off the ball to both win possession back and free up space for his teammates. His youthful zest was vital to Argentina’s success. Messi himself said Alvarez’s impact on the team was “absolutely spectacular.” Looking back now, it’s impossible to picture Argentina without him.

Honorable mention: Olivier Giroud (France)

Lionel Messi ??

Save the best – of the tournament and of all time – for last. Messi dazzled all month long in Qatar, but as the matches grew in significance, his performances followed suit. The Golden Ball winner always rose to the occasion. He got Argentina back on track in the group stage, scored in every knockout round – including twice in the final – and, in the tensest possible moment, his nonchalant penalty helped kick off the shootout against France and calm his team’s jangling nerves. His seven goals were second only to Mbappe, and nobody had more assists. A brilliant artist’s finest work.

Honorable mention: Cody Gakpo (Netherlands)

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Ligue 1

Even in a World Cup of twists and turns, it came down to Messi and Mbappe

As Sunday’s World Cup final entered the final half hour of regular time, the partisan crowd at Lusail Stadium began to sing ballads. Argentina moved the ball with alarming ease, and 40,000 or so of its compatriots in the stands coronated each pass. “Ole,” they chanted as their heroes completed attempt after attempt. “Ole, ole, ole.”

Up until that final half hour, France had failed to record a single shot on target. It had barely made a foray into Argentina’s penalty area. The flu virus that had afflicted the French in the days before the final seemed to have sapped all of their energy. Argentina’s 2-0 lead seemed as secure as anything ever recorded in history.

Except it wasn’t. The essence of this tournament was about to be revealed.

All it took was a turnover, a hopeful pass forward, and a run-in behind defender Nicolas Otamendi for Randal Kolo Muani, one of France’s speculative substitutes, to win a penalty in the 79th minute. That set into motion the most spectacular game of football ever played in a World Cup final.

Everything changed the moment Kylian Mbappe converted that penalty. Momentum swung violently the other way, and suddenly France seemed like the clear favorite to win. Mbappe equalized 97 seconds later, leaving Argentina wobbling on the canvas. A routine affair became a dog fight.

The World Cup had to end the way it started: amidst absolute chaos. The only thing that stayed on script Sunday was the fact that it went off it. These 28 days in Qatar proved that the best don’t always win, and that moments make champions, not necessarily talent alone. If something could happen, it did.

Saudi Arabia scored twice against Argentina to win a match in which it was expected to score 0.1 goals. Japan overcame 1-0 deficits to defeat both Germany and Spain. Morocco ousted Belgium, Spain, and Portugal with a ragtag ensemble and a coach who’d only taken the reins three months prior. No amount of backroom scheming and tactical planning could legislate for any of that. It just kind of happened.


Didier Deschamps’ team was a case study in improvisation. It started the tournament without six of its starters, including Karim Benzema, who won the Ballon d’Or as the world’s greatest player weeks before kickoff. France needed Harry Kane to miss the second of two penalties to have a chance of advancing from the quarterfinals, and it needed several players, including starters Adrien Rabiot and Dayot Upamecano, to recover from a flu bug in time to log significant minutes in the final.

The French also needed Olivier Giroud, for so long considered a liability by his own people, to convert the few chances that fell his way, and they needed Antoine Griezmann, a center-forward by trade, to sacrifice himself in midfield.

But two constants emerged amidst the wreckage. Argentina had Lionel Messi, and France had Mbappe. As the tournament cycled through the rounds, as the teams trudged toward the promised land, these two became more and more integral to this twisting tale. A certain air of invincibility followed them.

Messi and Mbappe were the heavyweights of the competition but also anomalies, putting all the tournament’s unsung heroes back in their place. No matter how close Argentina cut it, Messi always seemed the likeliest to determine its fate. No matter how desperate France had become, Mbappe always seemed to have a solution.

Messi didn’t just score, he created, and he took on defenders like it was 2017, turning Croatia’s Josko Gvardiol – the World Cup’s standout center-back – inside out with the same craftiness that turned Bayern Munich’s Jerome Boateng into a meme years ago. Mbappe ran like a gazelle, probed for openings, and found space even as multiple defenders descended on him with growling menace. Then, as one does, Mbappe went and scored a hat-trick in the World Cup final. Not even Pele could manage such a feat.

Messi and Mbappe remained fixtures as the World Cup became more and more of a wild card. The most important game of a tournament of seemingly unyielding vagary came down to the sport’s two main characters: the greatest of all time, and the potentially soon-to-be greatest.

Even when things that should’ve happened didn’t actually happen, Messi and Mbappe delivered as expected. Little else went according to plan. No one expected Morocco to fly the flag for Africa or Brazil to lose to Croatia in the quarterfinals. No one suspected a thing when the “oles” broke out Sunday, when Argentina’s traveling contingent swayed in the stands with a 2-0 lead and chanted with absolute glee.

Just as nothing made sense, Messi and Mbappe did. They scored five of the six goals in the final and converted the first of their penalty kicks. They did everything they were supposed to do. And the World Cup of twists and turns had the only ending anyone had ever expected.

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Ligue 1

3 thoughts from Argentina's win over France in legendary World Cup final

How do we make sense of such bedlam?

Lionel Messi almost led Argentina to World Cup glory in normal time – and then in extra time – but Sunday’s gripping final ended 3-3 after 120 minutes before the South Americans finally edged France on penalties.

Kylian Mbappe notched a hat-trick and struck a successful spot-kick in the shootout, but his clinical and mature display wasn’t enough to earn the superstar his second World Cup winners’ medal.

Here are three takeaways from an unforgettable final to conclude the 2022 World Cup:

Di Maria wreaks havoc

Discussions around Jules Kounde during the tournament indicated the right-back slot was completely alien to him. It seemed an awkward fix – something akin to solving an antique dining table’s wobble with a few soggy beer mats under a leg.

But that wasn’t strictly true given the minutes Kounde spent in that position for Julen Lopetegui at Sevilla and now Xavi at Barcelona. He’s not a novice at full-back. But it is reasonable to suggest he’s significantly better at center-back. In hindsight, perhaps Benjamin Pavard – a more dependable player on the right of a back-four – would have been the better choice in that role.

Angel Di Maria taunted Kounde in the first half. The Frenchman distractedly glanced over at midfield runners while Di Maria jinked his way down the flank and, at one point, desperately dragged the winger down after being beaten. Kounde was overwhelmed – his head muddled by the decisions he faced and his body knotted by the 34-year-old wideman’s footwork. And no one stepped up to help their bewildered teammate.

Kounde was caught in a narrow position for the move that led to Argentina’s penalty. His preoccupation with Argentina’s forward-thinking midfielders and Julian Alvarez meant Di Maria only had Ousmane Dembele to beat, and his chop created the space to carve out a route into the box before Dembele clipped his heels.

Messi made no mistake from 12 yards.

Kounde wasn’t part of France’s attack before Argentina’s second goal, so he should have been well-placed to deal with the Albiceleste’s speedy transition. But Dayot Upamecano was caught high up the pitch while Raphael Varane tried to engage with Messi, forcing Kounde to leave his position and close down goal-bound Alexis Mac Allister. Mac Allister then rolled an inviting pass to an unoccupied Di Maria for one of the finest goals of the 2022 World Cup.

To France’s relief, Di Maria only lasted a little over an hour before being substituted for Marcos Acuna. Di Maria – now a scorer in the finals of the 2008 Olympics, 2021 Copa America, 2022 Finalissima, and the 2022 World Cup – could have helped put the match out of reach if he was fully fit – or just younger.

Messi, Mbappe put on a show

It was unavoidable in the buildup to the final. This was a battle between the master – perhaps the greatest player of all time – and a potential heir to his throne.

And how Messi and Mbappe delivered.

Here are some standout numbers following the superstars’ enthralling performances in a staggering final:

1 – At just 23, Mbappe is the top scorer in World Cup finals history with four goals.

2 – Messi is the second-oldest player to score in a World Cup final at 35 years and 177 days. Sweden’s Nils Liedholm converted against Brazil in the 1958 showpiece at 35 years and 264 days.


3 – Mbappe’s treble made him the second male player to score a hat-trick in a World Cup final. Geoff Hurst previously stood alone with that record thanks to his legendary display in England’s 1966 triumph.

4 – Argentina’s No. 10 scored four penalties in Qatar (excluding the shootout against the Netherlands in the quarterfinals). Only Dutch winger Rob Rensenbrink in 1978 and Portuguese icon Eusebio in 1966 have tucked away that many spot-kicks in a single tournament.

7 – Messi had never scored a World Cup knockout goal until this month. He spread his seven goals at the 2022 edition across the group stage, last-16, quarterfinals, semifinals, and final, meaning he’s the first player to score in each round of a single World Cup campaign.

8 – The last time a male player scored eight goals at a single World Cup was in 2002; Mbappe matched Ronaldo’s mark from Brazil’s success two decades ago.

10 – Messi and Mbappe both registered 10 goal involvements at the World Cup: Messi totaled seven goals and three assists, while Mbappe claimed eight strikes and two assists. The last player to reach that mark was Diego Maradona, who scored five and set up five during Argentina’s victorious 1986 campaign.

26 – Messi set a record with his 26th goal across his appearances on football’s biggest stage and his country’s continental competition. Brazil’s Ronaldo previously held the record with 25 goals scored at World Cup and Copa America outings.

100 – Messi’s second strike – and Argentina’s third – was his 100th career goal with his right foot.

A fitting end

Argentina was cruising, tapping the ball around the middle of the park to the soundtrack of “oles” from the crowd. The French players, chasing shadows around Lusail, appeared more tired than the annual debates over whether “Die Hard” is a Christmas movie or not.

It seemed to be a procession toward the trophy for the Albiceleste. So – naturally, for this tournament – the scene descended into blissful chaos.

From nowhere, Mbappe scored twice in 97 seconds – a penalty and a stunning lashed volley – to wipe out Argentina’s two-goal advantage by the 81st minute.

It’s impossible to ignore the atrocities that Qatar and FIFA tried to gloss over at this World Cup, including migrant worker deaths and abuses and the abhorrent treatment of the LGBTQ+ community in the Gulf state. But it’s also impossible to deny this was a marvelous tournament: There were surprise results -including, of course, Saudi Arabia’s win over Argentina – several miraculous tournament runs highlighted by Morocco’s, and many other timeless individual and team performances.

DeFodi Images / DeFodi Images / Getty

The final kept up appearances. Mbappe’s quick-paced double salvo wasn’t even close to the peak of Sunday’s shock and suspense. Messi thought he’d won it when he scored in the 109th minute, but tears of happiness on the Argentine bench became tears of despair when Mbappe scored from the penalty spot following Gonzalo Montiel’s handball.

Even then, there was more drama to unfold. Randal Kolo Muani was inches from scoring the winner with his head, but that wasn’t his best late chance. The Eintracht Frankfurt forward was one-on-one with Emiliano Martinez in the 123rd minute, but his shot was spectacularly saved by Martinez’s foot; Lautaro Martinez then wastefully headed wide after one last sprint upfield from the Argentines.

It was breathless action to conclude a memorable World Cup, and Montiel’s game-winning penalty in the shootout tied a bow on one of the greatest matches in the old sport’s history.

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