At last, Argentina's Lionel Messi is a World Cup champion.
The 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar came to a close Dec. 18 in a nail-biter showdown between reigning champs France and La Albiceleste—each looking to secure their third cup World Cup Win—with the latter coming out on top. Argentina won with a score of 4-2 in a penalty shootout after Messi scored twice in a 3-3 tie.
Messi, 35, has now cemented his first World Cup victory in a record 26th match and fifth tournament overall.
The final also saw rising superstar Kylian Mbappe, seeking a second World Cup win on behalf of France at just 23 years old, finish with three goals. He also emerged as the top scorer of the tournament with eight goals total.
Messi has signaled that the 2022 World Cup will likely be his last.
"There's a lot of years until the next one and I don't think I have it in me and finishing like this is best," he told Argentina's Televisión Pública Dec. 14 after his team's 3-0 win over Croatia, the third-place winner.
He continued, "[I feel] a lot of happiness to be able to achieve this. To finish my World Cup career playing my last game in a final. Everything I've lived in this World Cup, what people experienced and how much the people back in Argentina are enjoying it all is very emotional."
Argentina's World Cup win marks the team's first such title in 36 years and third overall. Soccer legend Diego Maradona, who died in 2020, last led the country's national team to victory in 1986, marking their second triumph following their first World Cup win in 1978.
All over the world, eyes were on soccer during the nearly monthlong tournament, during which Morocco become the first African nation to land a spot in the final four.
It was also full of shocking upsets as both Neymar-led Brazil and Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal exited during the semifinals—with each potentially playing their last World Cup matches on behalf of their countries.
And for Ronaldo, this World Cup was full of contention—he exited his Premier League team Manchester United—as he was dropped from Portugal's starting lineup for its Dec. 6 match against Switzerland. While his replacement Goncalo Ramos scored a hat trick in their 6-1 victory, their journey ended just a game later as they fell 1-0 to Morocco in the quarterfinals.
However, the 2022 World Cup also saw the tragic loss of Grant Wahl, the preeminent soccer journalist in the U.S., who died after suffering a ruptured aortic aneurysm while in Qatar. He was 49.
Following his death, his wife Dr. Celine Gounder penned a message to supporters on Wahl's Substack, expressing gratitude at the notes of support from all over the globe—as everyone from fans to players to teams paid their respects to the late journalist.