Messi has his World Cup as Argentina defeats France in an instant classic
In what some are already calling perhaps the greatest football match ever played, Lionel Messi — the majestic, marvellous, magnificent Messi — achieved his destiny on Sunday, December 18, by leading Argentina to a victory over France in penalty kicks in the final of the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Doha, Qatar.
In a performance for the ages in his declared World Cup finale, one-of-the-greatest-of-all-time Messi scored two goals and another in penalty kicks in his record 26th cap to finally claim the one title that had eluded him in his legendary career, that of World Cup Champion. The victory negated an incredible comeback by France to end extra time tied 3-3 on the strength of a hat trick by 23-year-old Kylian Mbappé, only to have Argentina win 4-2 in penalties. The final was grand theatre and drama of the highest order on the biggest stage in the world.
This year’s exciting final was a fitting conclusion to an epic tournament. In the desert, where temperatures can be 45 C during the day and close to 0 C at night, endurance is a key to survival. World Cup 2022 in Qatar reflected its environment as upsets marked the early games of the Group Stage, with Saudi Arabia shocking Argentina and Japan stunning Germany. The last games of the Group Stage were amongst the most dramatic and emotional in World Cup history, as based on records and goal differentials, countries battled to the final seconds to see which advanced to the knockout stage.
It is always difficult to navigate the ever-changing landscape of a World Cup, but gradually the traditional football powers reasserted themselves with England, France, Portugal, Brazil, Croatia, Argentina and the Netherlands amongst the Elite Eight of the Quarterfinals. There, they were joined by the Cinderella story of this year’s tournament, Morocco, that scored early-upset wins over Belgium and Spain, and then Portugal in the quarters, to become the first African nation to reach the semifinals — a truly historic achievement in global football. There, the fairy tale ended in a 2-0 loss to France. If not for the legend holding the trophy at the end, this may have been known as ‘Morocco’s World Cup.’
The 2022 tournament marked Canada’s first return to the Word Cup since 1986. While they lost all three of their matches, they did score Canada’s first-ever World Cup goal with superstar Alphonso Davies’ electrifying header just 68 seconds into its game with Croatia. The future seems bright for the program and expectations will be high when Canada, along with the United States and Mexico, play host to FIFA World Cup 2026.
The FIFA World Cup delivers excitement in spades, and it never stops giving. Nothing regarding athletics matches the drama, passion and intensity of it, which was once again proven in Qatar. Humans have yet to and most likely never will create anything bigger. The only regrettable part is that we must wait four years until the next. We won’t have Messi, but we will always have this magnificent memory of a game that will live on forever.