a legendary final sends Lionel Messi into the firmament of football
But what is it about? Because Messi, one of the best players of all time, if not the best, could believe that the curse that haunted him at the World Cup would experience a new episode. While the Argentines led 2-0 thanks to his penalty and a goal from his favorite lieutenant Angel Di Maria (23′, 36′), and dominated the defending champions by header, the other star on the pitch, Kylian Mbappé, hit.
The latter led his team within seconds (80th, 81st). Then Messi saw the Frenchman succeed in his second penalty of the evening (118th) while the Argentine had just returned the lead to him and harangued his audience (109th). But after four failures, this time it was the evening of the one that has delighted football lovers for so long.
This third star for the Albiceleste, after those of the teams led by Daniel Passarella (1978) and then by Diego Maradona (1986) will bear the mark of Messi, the favorite to be named best player of the tournament, to the delight of his millions of supporters in Worldwide. Unless Mbappé, author of a hat-trick in the final, the first since Geoff Hust (1966), gets this small consolation.
Prior to this coronation, Rosario’s 35-year-old son had won everything in clubs, especially with FC Barcelona. But with his selection of him, he settled for a Copa America (2021). Won in his fifth attempt, this world title makes him enter the legend of Maradona, “el pibe de Oro”, crowned in 1986.
He also equals Pelé, with twelve goals in five editions of the top football competition. A trio that looks a lot like a Holy Trinity for football lovers. Messi did something that neither his two elders nor anyone else could do: he scored in the group stage and then in each of the four knockout matches… Including twice in the final…
For France, reigning champions, this last step was therefore too much. Resilient, the Blues had so far overcome many headwinds: cascading packs of managers, Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kanté, Presnel Kimpembe, Karim Benzema, then a virus that hit the squad the week of the semi-final and final. Admirable fighters, they still thought about twisting the arm of misfortune on Sunday.
But France won’t become the third nation to retain football’s greatest trophies, as did Italy (1934 and 1938) and then “King” Pelé’s Brazil (1958 and 1962). He also remains the only one to have won two titles before celebrating his 24th birthday, which Kylian Mbappé will therefore not be able to do.
Concluded under the eyes of Elon Musk, this World Cup was a tournament like no other, a World Cup of excess, which required between 200 and 300 billion euros of investment according to estimates. Seven of the eight stadiums were built for the occasion, the last one completely refurbished.
It is also the first World Cup organized in a small place, as large as the Paris region, with all stadiums within a perimeter of 70 kilometres. It has come to interrupt the professional football seasons, which take place on the borders of autumn and winter to avoid the unbearable summer temperatures of this small gas emirate.
The organizers have been the subject of much controversy. First there were allegations of bribery to get the organization of the contest in 2010 at the expense of the United States, to everyone’s surprise. Judicial investigations are underway in several countries. Qatar has also been criticized on the issue of human rights.
Qatar denies that thousands have died on construction sites during the World Cup, anticipating the figure of a total of 414 deaths from workplace accidents (mainly outside the World Cup) between 2014 and 2020.
However, he regretted a “double standard” in the criticisms, assuring that “Qatar (had) done better in this area than other countries” and praised a “very positive work” to improve social rights in favor of the tournament. Another controversial topic in the West, LGBT+ rights in a very conservative country where homosexuality and sex outside marriage are illegal.
The damage to the environment inherent in such a tournament was also highlighted, particularly the carbon footprint of the necessary infrastructure. In terms of gigantism, the next World Cup promises to be even more disproportionate, with three organizing countries, the United States, Mexico and Canada, sixteen cities thousands of kilometers apart, four time zones…
And 48 teams will participate, against 32 today, potentially more than a hundred games (against the current 64).