It was the moment that Lionel Messi had been dreaming of for his entire career. The moment that he finally lifted the FIFA World Cup trophy with Argentina, after a thrilling and dramatic final against France in Qatar.
The 35-year-old, widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, had come close to glory before, but had always fallen short at the final hurdle. He had lost the 2014 final to Germany, and the 2018 round of 16 to France. He had also suffered heartbreak in three Copa America finals, and had briefly retired from international football in 2016.
But in 2022, he decided to give it one last shot, and led his team to an incredible campaign that culminated in a historic victory. He scored in every match he played, including a penalty in the final, and won the Golden Ball award as the best player of the tournament. He also broke the record for the most goals scored in World Cup history, surpassing Miroslav Klose’s 16.
Argentina faced a formidable opponent in France, the defending champions and the favourites to win. The French team boasted some of the world’s best players, such as Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, and N’Golo Kante. They had breezed through the group stage and the knockout rounds, and looked unstoppable.
But Argentina had a secret weapon: Messi. He inspired his teammates with his skill, passion, and leadership. He also had a special motivation: to honour his late idol, Diego Maradona, who had passed away in 2020. Maradona, who had led Argentina to their last World Cup title in 1986, had always been Messi’s role model and mentor.
The final was a roller-coaster of emotions, as both teams scored three goals each in regulation time. Messi opened the scoring with a penalty, and Angel Di Maria doubled the lead with a stunning strike. But France fought back, and Mbappe scored a hat-trick to level the score. The match went to extra time, and Messi scored again to put Argentina ahead. But France equalized again, thanks to a header by Raphael Varane.
The match was decided by a penalty shoot-out, and Argentina prevailed, thanks to two saves by Emiliano Martinez, and a decisive kick by Gonzalo Montiel. Messi was the first to celebrate, as he ran towards his teammates and hugged them. He then lifted the trophy, and kissed it, as tears of joy streamed down his face.
He had done it. He had fulfilled his dream. He had made history. He had made Argentina proud. He had made Maradona proud. He had made himself proud.