Lionel Messi sent the Lusail stadium into raptures as he held the World Cup aloft in Qatar, having guiding Argentina to glory through a nerve-wracking penalty shootout against France in one of the greatest ever finals.
Waiting patiently with a huge smile emblazoned across his face, Messi watched on as his team mates one by one received their gold World Cup winners’ medals, soaking up the atmosphere while the anticipation built for the moment he would finally get his hands on six kilograms of gold.
With the entire Argentina team lined up on the stage before their adoring fans in the Lusail stadium, Messi spent another couple of minutes fielding plaudits from FIFA president Gianni Infantino, Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and various other officials.
But the diminutive Argentine genius was eventually released to celebrate with his countrymen and, seizing the golden trophy in his hands, he stepped into the centre of the stage and thrust the Cup over his head, fireworks exploding all around him as his compatriots erupted in wild celebrations.
Moments earlier, Argentinian fans the world over did the same as their team prevailed under the lights in Lusail, scoring every spot kick while France squandered two of their efforts amid the mind games of Argentinian goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez.
Lionel Messi of Argentina lifts the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Winner’s Trophy after the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Final match between Argentina and France at Lusail Stadium
Messi holds the World Cup aloft on the stage in the Lusail Stadium in Qatar after defeating France
Lionel Messi of Argentina kisses the FIFA World Cup Trophy while holding the adidas Golden Ball award, given to the best player of the tournament
Argentina’s Lionel Messi shakes hands with Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani as FIFA president Gianni Infantino applauds during the trophy presentation
Argentina’s Lionel Messi is presented with the trophy by FIFA president Gianni Infantino and Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani after Argentina win the World Cup
Argentina’s Lionel Messi celebrates with the trophy and teammates after winning the World Cup
Earlier, Messi had scored a desperate goal in extra time to drag his team back in front of defending champions France – only for Kylian Mbappe to seal a hat-trick and set up a nerve-wracking penalty shootout.
The south American fans, who vastly outnumbered their French counterparts in Qatar, were powerless to contain their joy when the final penalty was scored, while the Argentinian players immediately burst into floods of tears as they mobbed their captain Messi.
The man himself bids farewell to the tournament with the trophy in his hands, having all but sealed his status as the greatest footballer of all time in likely his last ever game for Argentina.
Messi was one of the few Argentines in the stadium to maintain his composure after the final spot kick was scored, walking over to the seats where his wife Antonella was watching on with their son and blew kisses as the massive throng of supporters went wild.
Mbappe meanwhile walks away from Qatar with the honour of becoming only the second man in history to score a hat trick in a World Cup Final after England’s Sir Geoff Hurst.
Sir Geoff was one of the first to congratulate Mbappe, tweeting: ‘Many congratulations to Mbappe. Whatever happens, I’ve had a great run!’
Lionel Messi of Argentina celebrates their side’s win after Argentina win the penalty shootout during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Final match between Argentina and France at Lusail Stadium on December 18, 2022
Argentina fans rejoice in front of their captain who guided the team to World Cup glory through a breathless final in Qatar
Argentina’s players erupt with joy and elation as they become champions of the world
Lionel Messi of Argentina celebrates at full time after winning the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Final match between Argentina and France at Lusail Stadium on December 18, 2022 in Lusail City, Qatar.
Argentina fans celebrate in Buenos Aires as their team become World Cup champions
Argentina’s fans celebrate the victory of the Argentine national team against France for the World Cup final, in Qatar, on Copacabana beach, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Fans in Madrid watch Argentina v France – Madrid, Spain – December 18, 2022
Argentina fans celebrate in a bar in Barcelona, Spain during the World Cup final
France supporters are seen in tears as their team lose in the World Cup final to new champions Argentina
Kylian Mbappe and France players show dejection after the team’s defeat
Kylian Mbappe of France looks dejected after a penalty shoot out loss during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Final match between Argentina and France at Lusail Stadium
Leandro Paredes of Argentina scores the team’s third penalty in the penalty shoot out during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Final match between Argentina and France at Lusail Stadium on December 18
Argentina’s goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez saves against Kingsley Coman of France during the penalty shoot-out of the FIFA World Cup 2022 Final
Argentina’s forward #10 Lionel Messi scores his team’s third goal during the Qatar 2022 World Cup final football match between Argentina and France at Lusail Stadium in Lusail, north of Doha on December 18, 2022
France’s forward #10 Kylian Mbappe kicks the ball on Argentina’s defender #04 Gonzalo Montiel’s arm to obtain a pelnalty during the Qatar 2022 World Cup final
Argentine soccer fans celebrate their team’s World Cup victory over France, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2022
Fans of Argentina react while watching the live broadcast of the Qatar 2022 World Cup final football match between Argentina and France in Buenos Aires, on December 18, 2022
French fans react as their side lose on penalties to Argentina in the World Cup final
Fans reacts during the final football match of the Qatar 2022 World Cup between Argentina and France on a screen in Paris on December 18, 2022.
A video screen shows the score at the end of extra time during the World Cup final soccer match between Argentina and France at the Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2022.
A fan of Argentina reacts while watching the live broadcast of the Qatar 2022 World Cup final football match between Argentina and France in Buenos Aires, on December 18, 2022.
Thousands of Argentina fans went wild after their team went into half-time with a 2-0 lead against France in the World Cup final in Doha this afternoon, only for France’s wonderboy Kylian Mbappe to score two goals in quick succession to haul the defending champions back level.
Lionel Messi put Argentina in front against France with a calmly taken penalty in the 23rd minute to spark jubilant scenes among the vociferous Argentine supporters, who outnumber the French fans by about 90 per cent in the Lusail Stadium.
Argentina fans were then sent into dreamland after Angel Di Maria, who was fouled for the penalty, capped off a sublime team move by slotting the ball past Hugo Lloris following a rapid counter attack in the 36th minute.
It looked as though Messi’s men were set to cruise to glory, but Mbappe slotted home a penalty in the 80th minute to pull a goal back and become the joint top scorer with Messi at six tournament goals each.
A minute later, the 23-year-old equalised, dragging a lacklustre French side back into contention and scoring his 7th goal of the tournament to put him in line for the Golden Boot.
The second half of extra time brought yet more drama as Messi managed to scramble the ball over the line to notch Argentina’s third goal.
For a moment it looked as though the goal was to be disallowed but a quick check ensured the ball had fully crossed the line.
Argentina fans exploded in yet another wave of joyous celebrations, only for their team to give away a crucial penalty just minutes from time.
Mbappe stepped up and buried the spot kick, becoming only the second player after Sir Geoff Hurst to score a hat trick in World Cup Final and setting up an unbearably tense penalty shootout.
Fans of Argentina react while watching the live broadcast of the Qatar 2022 World Cup final
Kylian Mbappe of France celebrates scoring his 2nd goal during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Final match between Argentina and France at Lusail Stadium on December 18, 2022 in Lusail City, Qatar
French President Emmanuel Macron celebrates wildly in the stands as Mbappe brings France level with Argentina at 2-2
France’s forward #10 Kylian Mbappe (R) celebrates scoring his team’s third goal
Lionel Messi (R) of Argentina scores against France’s goalkeeper Hugo Lloris (L) during the penalty shoot-out of the FIFA World Cup 2022 Final between Argentina and France at Lusail stadium
France’s forward #10 Kylian Mbappe takes a penalty to score his team’s third goal from the penalty spot
Lionel Messi (R) of Argentina scores during the penalty shoot-out in the FIFA World Cup 2022 Final between Argentina and France at Lusail stadium, Lusail, Qatar, 18 December 2022
Supporters of France react as they watch the World Cup final soccer match between Argentina and France, being shown live on television in a bar, in Bayonne, France, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2022
France football supporters react as France’s Kylian Mbappe scores during the World Cup final soccer match between Argentina and France, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2022, in Lille
Argentina fans react in a bar in Barcelona, Spain during the World Cup final soccer match between Argentina and France in Qatar, Sunday, Dec.18, 2022
Kylian Mbappe of France scores the team’s first goal from the penalty spot
France’s Kylian Mbappe celebrates scoring their side’s second goal of the game during the FIFA World Cup final at Lusail Stadium, Qatar
People light flares and wave the French flag during the World Cup final match between France and Argentina in Lyon, France, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2022
France fans react on the Champs-Elysees during the final between France and Argentina – Paris, France – December 18, 2022
Argentina fans in a bar in Madrid, Spain, celebrate as their team takes the lead against France in the World Cup final
Argentina fans at the Moo Cantina in Pimlico, London, celebrate as their country doubles its lead against France
France fans in Zoo Bar, London, hold their heads in their hands as Les Blues concede against Argentina in the World Cup final
Argentina fans in blue and white dramatically outnumbered the handful of French supporters, creating an electric atmosphere and effectively converting the Lusail Stadium into a home game for Lionel Scaloni’s side – though only around three-quarters of the seats were filled just before kickoff.
The throngs of South American supporters overcrowded Doha’s metro prior to the match with Qatar Rail delaying access to the stations as a modest closing ceremony kicked off inside the stadium with dancers celebrating ‘A Night to Remember’.
The crowd watched Qatar’s air force planes flying over Lusail as the Gulf state also celebrated its national day, with thousands of police forces, including anti-riot units armed with water canons, securing the area.
After 63 matches, the World Cup in Qatar comes to a close with reigning champions France taking on Argentina in a showpiece final with both teams looking to add a third star to their crest.
France’s Mbappe and Argentina’s Messi, both playing for the Qatari-owned club, are also a reminder of Qatar’s influence on global football beyond the FIFA World Cup organisation.
‘Our parents talked to us about Maradona, and we will talk to our sons about Messi… We hope that we will win the cup, and we can celebrate with him and all the people in Argentina,’ said Nicolas Gomez, a fan from Argentina.
Thousands also gathered outside the stadium to watch the game on giant screens: ‘We have no tickets. We are here for the national day and because the players might come out after the finish. We wanted to just see them,’ said Shafeek Mydheea, a tourist from Dubai standing in front of two rows of riot police outside Lusail metro station.
Angel Di Maria puts his country 2-0 up against France in the World Cup final
Angel Di Maria runs away in celebration after scoring in the World Cup final against France tonight
Lionel Messi slots the ball past Hugo Lloris in the French goal to put Argentina 1-0 up in the World Cup final tonight
Messi wheels away in celebration after scoring a penalty in the 23rd minute at the Lusail Stadium tonight
An aerial view of the pitch moments after the Argentina captain put away the penalty and thrust his country into the lead
Millions across the world tuned in to see who would come out on top as two of the sports greatest players – Messi and Mbappe – fought it out to become world champions.
The defending champions France were looking to become the first team in more than 60 years to retain the title, with young superstar Mbappe ready to become a two-time world champion two days before his 24th birthday.
Meanwhile the hopes and dreams of millions of Argentinians rested on Lionel Messi, who aimed to bookend his magnificent career with the one title that has eluded him and cement his place as the greatest to ever play the game.
France’s team emerged from their bus quietly while Argentina’s players including talisman Messi sang and danced around their bus, much to the bemusement of their Sikh driver whose turban was the same colour as the South Americans’ light blue and white strip.
Messi was last off the bus and first onto the pitch for the warm up and received the loudest reception while Mbappe was cheered loudly by the French supporters massed behind a goal.
Argentina supporters in a fan park in Buenos Aires celebrate their country scoring a goal in the World Cup final
Argentina fans in Buenos Aires react as they watch a live stream of the World Cup final
Argentina fans at the Lusail Stadium celebrate after Lionel Messi puts their country 1-0 up in the World Cup final
Argentina fans at Moo Cantina in Pimlico, London, cheer after their country takes a 1-0 lead against France in the World Cup final
French fans react as they watch a live stream of the World Cup final at a bar in Paris
France’s Olivier Giroud leaps towards the ball as France look to get a goal back against Argentina in the World Cup final
Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe greet each other as the teams shake hands before the World Cup final
Argentina fans wave flags in the Lusail Stadium ahead of kick off this evening
Supporters of France, decked out in replica kits and waving flags, cheer ahead of kick-off
The LED board at the stadium shows Kylian Mbappe before tonight’s match begins
An Argentina fan holds a replica of the World Cup before watching a live broadcast of the final
Thousands of Argentina supporters pack into a fan park in Buenos Aires ahead of kick off
The World Cup final is the 64th match of the tournament for which around £180 billion has been spent on to stage by Qatar.
Tickets were being sold on the black market for up to £5,000 a few hours before kick-off.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who was present at the last World Cup final and celebrated with players in the locker room when France beat Croatia 4-2, is at the Lusail stadium this time around too.
About 45 minutes before kickoff, Macron was chatting in the VIP section with Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who played for four seasons at Paris Saint-Germain, and France midfielder Paul Pogba, who has had to watch the entire World Cup from the sidelines due to an injury.
Pogba scored in the final when France won the 2018 World Cup but was not fit for selection at this tournament.
In a poignant moment before kick-off, fans were shown a tribute on stadium screens to past World Cup winners who have died since the last tournament in 2018 and these included England’s Roger Hunt and Nobby Stiles who died in October 2020.
But a better moment for any England fan inside the stadium was when Sir Geoff Hurst’s third goal in the World Cup Final of 1966 was screened on the four giant screens.
Lionel Messi set a new record for most World Cup appearances as he lined up for the 26th – and probably last – time.
Angel Di Maria, who missed the 2014 final defeat to Germany through injury, replaced Leandro Paredes in the only change made by head coach Lionel Scaloni from their semi-final win over Croatia.
Reigning champions France were dealing with an illness within their camp, but Didier Deschamps was able to welcome back both Dayot Upamecano and Adrien Rabiot into the starting line-up after the pair were ruled out of the semi-final win over Morocco.
That meant Ibrahima Konate and Youssef Fofana dropped to the bench as Les Bleus named the same XI that started the 2-1 quarter-final win over England.
French president Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron flank Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad-al-Thani before kick-off
Owner of Tesla and Twitter, and one of the world’s richest men, was in the crowd ahead of kick-off
Fireworks explode out of the stadium ahead of tonight’s match in Qatar
Performers dance in the closing ceremony prior to kick off at the Lusail Stadium in Doha