Gallagher Premiership Highlights - Round 21Mar 27
Argentina 3-3 France (AET, 4-2 on pens): Lionel Messi's World Cup career ends in glory as Kylian Mbappe scores hat-trick but ends up on the losing side
The Jules Rimet trophy was the only piece of silverware missing from Messi's astonishing trophy cabinet and after an astonishingly topsy-turvy 120+ minutes, the two teams couldn't be separated before Gonzalo Montiel ending Argentina's 36 years of hurt since the glory days of Diego Maradona.
Argentina dramatically claimed their first World Cup in 36 years to defeat holders France as captain Lionel Messi scored a first-half penalty and netted in extra time to complete his trophy collection in his last-ever game at the tournament.
In a match billed by many as Messi's final chance to cement his status as the greatest player of all time, as well as Kylian Mbappe's opportunity to win a second World Cup at the age of just 23, Argentina began on the front foot in their quest for a first World Cup triumph since Diego Maradona inspired the Albiceleste to glory in 1986.
It was Messi who netted on 23 minutes from the spot after Angel Di Maria went down in the box from Ousmane Dembele's challenge before Di Maria crowned an exquisite counter-attack with a cool finish shortly afterwards.
Distinctly second best, France mounted a phenomenal comeback late on in normal time as Mbappe set up a grandstand finish by tucking home from 12 yards himself before clinically volleying in minutes later to leapfrog Messi in the Golden Boot race.
Messi and Mbappe then traded places in those particular standings, the 35-year-old's close-range effort making it 3-2 in extra time before the young pretender completed his hat-trick after his curler struck Gonzalo Montiel's right arm.
On to penalties it went, and it was Kingsley Coman and Aurelien Tchouameni who failed to convert as Argentina emerged victorious courtesy of Montiel in arguably the most dramatic match of all time.
It had been reported in the build-up to this game that a number of France players had been struck down with illness - Raphael Varane, Dayot Upamecano and Adrian Rabiot all starting despite having been laid low - and the 2018 winners began sloppily as Rodrigo De Paul found an offside Julian Alvarez after neat close control by Messi, before Alexis Mac Allister fired down Hugo Lloris' throat and Jules Kounde had to alert to stop De Paul's thunderous shot.
Lloris was then in the wars with suspected rib pain as the ball was lobbed into Les Bleus' mixer, with the Tottenham goalkeeper feeling the force of club team-mate Cristiano Romero after Dayot Upamecano pushed his fellow centre-back.
De Paul - extremely involved early on - was next to create something promising, intercepting Theo Hernandez's loose pass, but after exchanging passes with Messi, the Atletico Madrid midfielder's cutback was spooned over by Di Maria.
Didier Deschamps' men had to wait until 20 minutes before having their first sniff, with Antoine Griezmann's flighted free-kick headed over by Olivier Giroud.
But the breakthrough came when Di Maria was found out on the left by Alvarez, and the Paris Saint-Germain attacker danced around Dembele before being clipped in the box by the Barcelona winger.
Szymon Marchiniak pointed to the spot and Messi stepped up to send Lloris the wrong way to a cacophony of noise.
France were struggling to gain a foothold in the contest and when they did have possession deep in enemy territory, Mbappe - anonymous for long stretches - was denied space near the byline and after Emiliano Martinez's subsequent clearance was hoofed back to Nahuel Molina by Upamecano, Argentina attacked devastatingly.
Molina found Mac Allister, who turned round the corner for Messi to flick into Alvarez's path, and the Manchester City striker slipped in the onrushing MacAllister, with the Brighton man glancing to his left and producing a inch-perfect square ball for Di Maria to sweep home with Lloris advancing.
Deschamps had obviously had enough and by 40 minutes, he took off Dembele and Giroud - the latter of whom was thought to be a doubt for this match through injury - as Randal Kolo Muani and Marcus Thuram came on in their place.
Possession: 54% - 46%
Shots: 20 - 10
Shots on target: 10 - 5
Corner: 6 - 5
However, a Griezmann free-kick that sailed out of play in first-half stoppage time was symptomatic of France's listlessness.
Immediately after the break, Argentina had a decent chance to make it 3-0, but Enzo Fernandez's ball into the danger area was gathered by Lloris with Mac Allister lurking.
The complexion of the game remained largely unchanged as a corner won by Mbappe found its way gratefully into the clutch of Martinez.
The Aston Villa goalkeeper had his heart in his mouth when miskicking a pass from De Paul having charged out of his area, but France were unable to capitalise and continued to be under the cosh as Lloris got down low to save from Alvarez and more sprightly wing play from Di Maria had Kounde twisting one way or the other before the 34-year-old's ball to Messi didn't finish with his desired outcome.
Another free-flowing passing move showcased Argentina at their glorious best soon afterwards, Mac Allister dispossessing Kolo Muani and feeding Messi, whose eye-of-the-needle pass released Alvarez, but Mac Allister was just unable to get on the end of attack as Lloris cleared his lines.
Di Maria was brought off for Marcos Acuna, and after Kolo Muani headed wide from a corner and Mbappe flashed a shot over in anger, France were still incapable of exerting any concerted pressure on Lionel Scaloni's side.
However, Argentina weren't on easy street just yet as Mbappe put Kolo Muani in a foot race with Nicolas Otamendi and the veteran defender couldn't deal with the pace of his opponent, bringing him down to allow Mbappe to halve the deficit from the spot, despite Martinez getting a touch on the penalty as he dived to his right.
Then, the extraordinary happened. Argentina looked to make a foray forward as Messi aimed to scuttle into France territory, but recent substitute Coman tackled him and drove upfield and after the ball was played to Rabiot and Mbappe, who linked up with Thuram as the Borussia Monchengladbach forward flicked up for the PSG superstar to sensationally volley off-balance into Martinez's far corner.
Mbappe seemed determined to flip the entire contest on its head in normal time as his cross just evaded Kolo Muani's head, while Thuram was booked for a dive in the area as Fernandez withdrew his right leg at the last moment.
This was the clash that every neutral had hoped for and become even more frantic, if that were possible, Otamendi stopping Mbappe drilling on target with a well dangled leg and Rabiot drawing a scrambled save from Martinez after Coman had been chopped down by Fernandez on the edge of the box, with Giroud duly booked on the touchline, possibly for asking why the Benfica midfielder was not receiving his marching orders having earlier been yellow-carded.
Messi then almost wrote the fairytale script, finding himself in space 20 yards out as he took an all-too-familiar touch out of his feet before whipping towards Lloris' top-right corner, but the 36-year-old acrobatically tipped over.
Marchiniak's whistle brought an end to a crazy contest and heading into extra time - but the feverish excitement was a long way from being over.
The brief rest looked to have Argentina good and Acuna's venomous cross was cleared on the stretch by Varane, while Messi glided into life as he combined with Mac Allister to set up Lautaro Martinez, but the recent introduction's trigger-pull was blocked superbly by Upamecano, who also looked to have got a vital touch on a poked effort from Lautaro, but the corner wasn't given, to Argentina's anger.
Messi wasn't done yet however. Montiel's lumped ball forwards was trapped by Lautaro into his path and he laid off to Fernandez, who fed Lautaro to fire point blank at Lloris, before Messi followed in to hook marginally over the line as Kounde tried desperately to shovel away, and after a short delay, the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner could celebrate, with a VAR offside check showing that Varane just played Lautaro on in the build-up.
But that was incredibly not the end to the drama as Mbappe's shot hit Montiel's raised right arm and he subsequently scored his second spot-kick of the game, becoming the first player since Sir Geoff Hurst to score three in a World Cup final.
Kolo Muani was close to guiding in a tantalising Mbappe cross as the encounter continued to lurch from the sublime to the ridiculous, with Martinez pulling off a remarkable star-jump stop to deny Kolo Muani after back-to-back attacks and Lautaro heading wide to bring a barely believable battle to an end - in open play.
Messi and Mbappe converted, before Coman's kick was repelled by spot-kick specialist Martinez to defeaning roars and Paulo Dybala putting the South Americans ahead.
As Tchouameni made the dreaded walk up to the spot, Martinez chucked the ball away to intimidate the Real Madrid youngster, a tactic that seemed to work as the 22-year-old missed the target.
Leandro Paredes and Kolo Muani found the back of the net, with Montiel given the honours of ending Argentina's long, long wait for world supremacy as the tears flowed.