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Argentina wins classic World Cup Final on penalties

Argentina Argentina wins World Cup - The Canadian Press

Was this the greatest football match of all-time?

Argentina won the FIFA World Cup for a third time with a 3-3 victory (4-2 on penalties) over France in an utterly thrilling contest in Qatar.

Kylian Mbappé scored all three of France's goals to become the first man to score a hat-trick in a World Cup Final since 1966, while Paris Saint-Germain teammate Lionel Messi had a brace. Both men would also go on to score in the penalty shootout.

Emi Martinez stopped Kingsley Coman during the shootout, while Gonzalo Montiel converted the decisive penalty.

With illness having spread through the France camp during the week, Les Bleus were buoyed by the returns of Adrien Rabiot and Dayot Upamecano to the starting XI with Youssouf Fofana and Ibrahim Konaté returning to the bench.

Lionel Scaloni made one change to his lineup from the XI that defeated Croatia in the semis with Di Maria handed a start in place of Leandro Paredes. Messi extended his record for World Cup appearances with his start, bringing the 35-year-old Paris Saint-Germain forward to 26.

A sluggish start by France portended ill tidings from nearly the opening kick-off and the dam finally broke in the 23rd. As Di Maria cut into the France area from the left, he went to ground under pressure from Ousmane Dembélé. Having adjudged that Di Maria's heel was clipped, the referee immediately pointed to the spot. As he has for the duration of the tournament, Messi stepped up to take for Argentina. After a brief hesitation, Messi sent Hugo Lloris the wrong way to make it 1-0.

The goal for Messi was his sixth of the tournament to bring him level with Pele. He would overtake him later.

Argentina doubled their lead in the 36th thanks to a fine team goal. After Messi won a loose ball and flicked forward for Julian Alvarez, the Manchester City man found Alexis Mac Allister, who sprinted down the right side with urgency. The Brighton midfielder then sent a perfectly weighted and timed pass to Di Maria across the area for the Juventus winger to poke home to make it 2-0. Di Maria openly wept as he celebrated the momentous goal, knowing that glory wasn't far behind. Di Maria was subbed off in the 64th to a massive ovation from the Argentina contingent in the stadium.

When all seemed lost, it was time for Mbappé magic. First in the 80th, Nicolas Otamendi gave France life. The veteran Argentina defender couldn't handle the run of Randal Kolo Muani and took him to ground. A penalty was immediately awarded by the referee. With Antoine Griezmann off, it was up to Mbappé to take the attempt. Martinez guessed right, but Mbappé's effort was too strong and France pulled within in one at 2-1.

Stunningly, it was level after only 97 seconds. Almost right after the restart, France moved forward again and hard volley by Mbappé beat a diving Martinez to make it 2-2 in the 81st. It was the second time in the tournament that Argentina blew a 2-0 second-half lead.

As France pressed forward to grab an unlikely winner as the minutes ticked down, it was Argentina who had the best opportunity to win it before extra time. In the dying seconds of stoppage, a Messi volley from just outside the area was perfectly struck, but Lloris was up to the challenge with a fine save to preserve the scoreline.

In the final minute of the first half of extra time, Argentina would have been ahead if not for the late intervention of Upamecano twice. A bright move into the area by Argentina saw Messi drop off for substitute Lautaro Martinez, who appeared to have a clear shot on goal, but a beautiful sliding tackle from the Bayern Munich man prevented it from reaching the France goal. Then seconds later, Martinez was played in again and looked to beat Lloris, but a slight deflection from Upamecano kept it even.

Messi would get his second in the 108th on a well-worked effort for the Albiceleste. After Martinez, who couldn't buy a goal, was denied again by Lloris, the ball fell for Messi, who got it over the line before Lloris could clear to send the Argentina supporters into delerium.

But the victory wasn't to be. In the dying seconds of the half, France was awarded another penalty thanks to a handball in the area. Mbappé once again beat Martinez from the spot for the first World Cup Final hat-trick since Geoff Hurst in 1966.

In second-half stoppage, Kolo Muani was inches away from a winner, but he couldn't make enough contact with a header to direct it on net as it fell harmlessly wide. Then in the dying seconds, Martinez robbed Kolo Muani for a second time.

The win means Argentina will now wear a third star above their badge going forward for a third World Cup triump. Only Brazil (five), Italy and Germany (both four) have won more.

For Messi, who announced earlier in the week that this World Cup will be his last, his quest for the last major trophy to elude him over his illustrious career has ended. The World Cup title now goes alongside a Copa America and Olympic gold medal in Argentina shirt, as well as 11 league titles between PSG and Barcelona, seven Copas del Rey and four Champions League crowns.

Individually, Messi has won seven Ballons d'Or.