What a fairytale to the farewell of arguably the best Argentine to have ever represented the nation at the pinnacle of world sports, the football World Cup (would rather not term it as soccer world as many of the Americans would do!!). Yes, it’s Lionel Messi, the living messiah of a classic South American football show to the rest of the world!
The unflappable measured crosses only to be placed at the comfort best of his teammate’s aerial or ground access, aesthetically spectacular dribbles past belligerence of the best fortified defensive walls of the business or goal-bound swerving left-footers from far-away set-pieces – it was Messi show all throughout that led to the 3rd World Cup triumph against the defending champion France.
The journey to the triumph started rather miserably when Argentina had succumbed to an unexpected defeat against a lower ranked Saudis (1-2). Even the 2-0 win over the north American giant Mexico was not a convincing one for Maradona fabled Argentina as the fear of elimination was still looming large. Then came the braces of Allister and Alvarez against the mighty Europeans, Poland, that not sealed a 2-0 victory with loop-sided dominance (92% passing accuracy and 74% possession), but also assured of a place in the knock-out stage of the 32 team studded tournament featuring the best in the business.
There was no looking back for ‘La Albiceleste’ as it continued its byoed never-say-die approach and scalped the challenges of the Aussies, Dutches and Croatians in style and geared up in the best possible way to thwart the ‘desafios’ of the odds versus in-form and defending champion France at the grand finale.
Kylien MBappe led Frenchmen proved to be a monstrous fortress towards the top podium finish as each lead of the Messis was equalized without much of a toil by MBappe’s solo charisma. 120 minutes into the match and the score line read 3-3 only after MBappe and Messi have netted a hat trick and a couple respectively.
50,000 odd spectators from all over the world could not have dreamt for a better finish as MBappe marched into the penalty shoot-outs and powered his right footer into the net giving a fitting reply to Messi’s cool-headed kick wrong-footed Hugo Lloris. Messi’s cool and composed approach must have upped the adrenaline as the Argentines kept on hitting the targets with immaculate precision and their custodian Emiliano Martinez successfully leapt on to his left and fisted out a powerful kick by Coman when France got its 2nd turn in the penalties.
New York Post has probably portrayed the delectably stupendous mavericks vividly crediting Martinez for staring down Tchouaméni and psychologically compelling him to kick off-target at the 3rd attempt. It all but assured Argentina of its 3rd World title and scripted a new chapter in the history books across the boundaries around Messi and Argentina for at least another couple of decades if not more.
Is it Maradona-Messi or just Messi in the critic’s mind that will dominate the sports pages and headlines globally for the days to come? Well, time will only tell us about it. But the sports frenzies will always embrace a South American victory with deafening cheers, Doha finale being a testimony to its ever-lasting legacy!! Vamos Argentina!!