Lionel Messi, the crowned king of football20 December 2022
This was the last world cup for Lionel Messi, and football analysts and Messi lovers all over the world speculated, with more expectations than reservations, whether he could lift the Qatar 2022 World Cup trophy and seal his career with this crowning feather on his colourful cap.
However, whether he could win or not, for many like English superstar Gary Linekar, Messi's performance spanning three decades with a bagful of records already assured his place among the football immortals like Pele and Maradona. But the debate remained as to whether he was the GOAT and now after Argentina's win against France, this debate is over.
Before, Messi played four times in the world cup stage and could not win the cup. Analysts found reasons behind it however. When Maradona won the Mexico World Cup in 1986, he had a number of supporting football superstars in the Argentine team including Burruchaga and Batista.
But for Messi, there was none like them, he was there as a solo. In Qatar also, the only superstar in the team is Messi but with occasional flashes of Di Maria and the team's youngest player Julian Alvarej. And also, there was the goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez who by his fabulous goalkeeping skill at the post rescued his team from impending disaster several times. Messi and his team must remain grateful to Martínez who received the Golden Glove.
However, Messi's individual charisma and a fairly balanced play of his team brought Argentina to the tournament's final stage despite its opening defeat against Saudi Arabia 2-1. After this upsetting match, Messi's team did not have to look back and they crossed one difficulty after another in the knockout stages to face the defending Champion France at the final. France under its sleek but speedy captain Mbappe from the start of the tournament was one of the favourites and berthed itself to the knockout stage rather easily, but their winning streak was finally stopped by Argentina in the astonishing final.
At the final, France's playing was lackluster in the first half of the match when Messi led his team 2-0 against France. But in the second half, France led by Mbappe's superb performance came back to the match with two successive goals within a short time. The match was played for extra time when one goal by Messi was quickly equalized by the French captain. For Mbappe, it was a hat-trick.
Argentina has always been very excellent in penalty shootout, and at the Lausail stadium in Qatar, it was no exception. The trophy was handed over into the hands of Messi as they won the tiebreaker with 4-2 goals.
In a dazzling career that has spanned three decades, Messi has won 37 club trophies, seven Ballon D'Or awards, and six European Golden Boots. With the world cup trophy in his hand at Lusail at age 35, he filled not only the hearts of his fans at home in Argentina but also around the world. He is fulfilled.