Lionel Messi and Argentina won an all-time classic World Cup final despite Kylian Mbappe’s hat-trick taking France into a penalty shoot-out following a 3-3 draw on Sunday.
Gonzalo Montiel converted the winning spot-kick to clinch a 4-2 shoot-out success for Argentina at the end of a thriller at Lusail Stadium, with goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez having saved Kingsley Coman’s attempt and seen Aurelien Tchouameni fire wide.
France, aiming to become only the third side to ever retain the trophy, battled back from two goals down in normal time after Mbappe converted an 81st-minute penalty and scored a delightful volley 97 seconds later.
Messi had opened the scoring, before Angel Di Maria rounded off a stunning counter-attacking move, and the Albiceleste number 10 restored his side’s lead in the 108th minute, only for Mbappe to respond again two minutes before the end of extra time.
That teed up penalties, with both Mbappe and Messi converting before Argentina gave their captain a fitting World Cup farewell.
A bright Argentina start was rewarded when Messi calmly beat Hugo Lloris from the penalty spot in the 21st minute after Ousmane Dembele made contact on Di Maria in the box.
The second goal from Di Maria was sublime, as Messi played a fine flicked pass into the path of Julian Alvarez, who in turn played in Alexis Mac Allister to find the scorer on the far side.
But Didier Deschamps introduced Marcus Thuram and Randal Kolo Muani in a double change before half-time, and both players made a telling impact.
After initially toiling for much of the second half, France were gifted a penalty that Mbappe converted when Nicolas Otamendi dragged down Kolo Muani.
Mbappe, a peripheral figure until that point, then levelled up moments later with a powerful volley from Thuram’s pass.
Messi again looked to have won it for Argentina in extra time when reacting quickest to a saved Lautaro Martinez attempt, only for Paris Saint-Germain club-mate Mbappe to equalise once more through a penalty after his shot hit Montiel on the arm.
Montiel would have the final say, though, with the help of Martinez, as Messi and Argentina ended their wait.
In a World Cup that saw a record 172 goals scored, overtaking the 171 netted in the 1998 and 2014 editions, this was a fitting finale in Qatar.
The game appeared all but over with 10 minutes to go as France, who became the first team on record not to attempt a first-half shot in a World Cup final, struggled to get going.
Mbappe made sure a rather one-sided final turned into a true epic, although it was not enough as Argentina, led by Messi, added to their previous titles won in 1978 and 1986.
Mbappe joins England’s 1966 hero Geoff Hurst as the only men to have scored a World Cup final hat-trick, netting his three goals from six shots.
Not that it will be much consolation for the PSG star, but he finishes the tournament as top scorer with eight goals, one more than Messi.
Messi may have just about been overshadowed on an individual level by Mbappe, but he more than played his part in both this victory and Argentina’s tournament triumph.
Making a record 26th – and final – appearance on the biggest stage of them all, he became the first player to score in each round of the competition, while his 21 goal involvements are the most of any player in World Cup history.