The 2022 FIFA World Cup has officially come to an end as of last night, and boy oh boy did it go out with a bang.
This tournament was always going to be a strange one given the Qatar situation, and their noted record of human rights abuse – in addition to their stance on gay rights. It was the true definition of a ‘blood money’ World Cup and in the history books, we hope that section is remembered alongside the football itself.
Because, of course, the football bit was actually fairly incredible from beginning to end.
It all came to a close in the final on Sunday as Argentina went to war with France. It was South America vs Europe and after what can only be described as the greatest World Cup final of all time, Argentina managed to reach the top of the mountain and win the big one.
Arguably more historically, however, we saw the crowning of the greatest footballer of all time – Lionel Messi.
It was the little boy from Rosario who got the scoring started after a frantic start, in which the Argentines pushed France back at every available opportunity. A penalty was awarded early on and Messi took advantage of it, sweeping the pre-tournament favourites into a lead over the reigning world champions.
Then, nine minutes before half time, their fans were really allowed to dream when Angel Di Maria made it 2-0 following an outstanding team move.
From then until around the 79th minute, the game sort of started to die out. Then, in a moment of madness, Otamendi conceded a penalty that gave Kylian Mbappe the chance to step up and drag Les Bleus back into the final.
Before Argentina could even blink and realise what had happened, the ball fell to Real Madrid’s star man once again and he drilled it home.
From there, an all-time classic was on the cards with both sides trading vicious blows for the better part of 30 minutes in extra time – with the remainder of normal time being just as chaotic.
Messi thought he’d been able to nab the winning goal in the 108th minute but once again, a sloppy penalty gave France a route back in, with Mbappe becoming just the second man in World Cup history to score a hat-trick in the final.
Then, to put it as bluntly as we can, Argentina rose to the occasion and France did not in the penalty shootout with Lionel Messi’s dream finally coming true.
His nation had captured the World Cup for just the third time, and the first since 1986.
There’s been a long-running debate in years gone by about who the greatest footballer in the history of the sport is. With Pele, Diego Maradona and Cristiano Ronaldo in the mix, it was always going to be a tough sell – but after that performance on Sunday, how can you not say it’s Lionel Messi?
He finally did what he’d been waiting years to do, and for us, the debate is over. What a moment.