Ashraf Ali Siddiqui describes a wonderful finale
FIFA Argentina wins the World Cup 2022 was full of surprises and will be long remembered for all the upsets caused during the course of a phenomenally scintillating sporting event. The final of the World Cup had coincided with Qatar’s National Day and festivities began around the Lusail Stadium, the showpiece stadium of the World Cup in the futuristic city built as an extension to Doha. Despite the World Cup being under a cloud for many issues, Qatar had proven to be spectacular hosts. Qatar provided the infrastructure and facilities that adequately coped with the challenge brought about to a congested tournament, held away from its usual June-July slot due to the intense summer heat in the Middle East. World Cup finals bring an outpouring of national pride for competing teams, a moment of national celebration and France and Argentina were celebrating already.
Messi finally crowned his record-breaking career with the one trophy that was missing as he produced a performance that will go down in World Cup history, scoring a first-half penalty and netting again in extra time. France had fought back from 2-0 down in the last 10 minutes as Kylian Mbappe scored twice to equalise and force extra time in a pulsating match watched by an 89,000 crowd in Lusail Stadium. Earlier Messi seemed to have decided the match in extra time with his second goal of the game before his Paris Saint-Germain teammate Mbappe completed only the second World Cup final hat-trick to bring the score to 3-3 and force penalties. Gonzalo Montiel swept home the decisive spot kick to win the shootout 4-2 for Argentina but this was Messi’s moment.
The players were able to celebrate with an estimated 40,000 fans inside the stadium on the night of the final. Messi had tasted bitter defeat in the 2014 final against Germany but in his fifth and final World Cup, the 35-year-old finally emulated Argentina idol Diego Maradona by leading his nation to World Cup glory for the first time since 1986. Argentina, now three-time world champions, dominated the first half of the final as Messi scored a 23rd minute penalty after Ousmane Dembele tripped Angel Di Maria. The mercurial Messi was then part of a superb move that led to Di Maria sweeping home Argentina’s second goal after 36 minutes. France, the defending champions finally got back into the game in the second half as Randal Kolo Muani was dragged down by Nicolas Otamendi in the penalty area and Mbappe converted from the spot with only 10 minutes left. A minute later, Mbappe scored a superb volley to bring France level. With his hat-trick — and the Golden Boot for top scorer at the tournament with eight goals — Mbappe surely showed he is ready to inherit the mantle of the world’s best player.
FIFA will be delighted with a pulsating final that capped one of the most controversial World Cups in history that finally it closed a near month-long festival of football that took place for the first time in the Arab world. Ahead of the closing ceremony, due to begin an hour and 15 minutes ahead of the final, there was a spectacular air-show at the Lusail Boulevard. There were fireworks and spectacular choreography as dancers and performers spread across the pitch to the mashup of songs from the World Cup soundtrack. The loudest cheers of the night came when the stadium anno¬uncer stated the names of the starting XI for both teams — the loudest coming for two players who were expected to light up the final: France’s Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi of Argentina. TW