By Phil McNulty
Chief football writer at Lusail Stadium, Doha
Argentina won the shootout 4-2 after a spectacular game which developed into the much-anticipated confrontation between the 35-year-old maestro Messi and his France opposite number Kylian Mbappe.
France’s own superstar scored a hat-trick – the first in a Fifa World Cup final since 1966 – but still ended up on the losing side at Lusail Stadium.
Messi looked to be securing the one major honour missing from his glittering collection in comfort as Argentina cruised into a two-goal lead.
This all changed when an explosive intervention from Mbappe, who scored two goals inside two minutes late on, turned this frantic, magnificent match for the ages on its head.
Messi had given Argentina the lead from the penalty spot in the 23rd minute following Ousmane Dembele’s foul on Angel di Maria. It made him the first player in World Cup history to score in the group stage, last 16, quarter-final, semi-final and final of a single tournament.
He then contributed a delicate touch within a magnificent counter-attack that ended with Brighton’s Alexis Mac Allister setting up Di Maria for the second 13 minutes later.
Argentina were untroubled until the closing stages, only for Mbappe to give France a lifeline from the penalty spot with nine minutes left – then restore equality with a magnificent volley moments later.
winners, then getting his third from the spot after Messi had put Argentina back in front.
In a stunning period of extra time during which both sides exchanged chances, France could have won but for a superb last-gasp save by Martinez with his outstretched boot from Muani.
Instead, Mbappe will find history no consolation as he was embraced by his team-mates and French President Emmanuel Macron at the end of this enthralling spectacle.