Of the 32 teams that came to Qatar for the 2022 World Cup, only one could come out on top.
This game was loaded with history and legacy-making stakes. Both countries had won two World Cups in their history. France were trying to become the first country to win consecutive titles since Brazil did it in 1958 and 1962.
Argentina's Lionel Messi is already the GOAT. The one thing that was missing from his trophy case was a World Cup title. This was likely his last chance at winning Argentina's first World Cup since 1986 -- and he delivered.
The final was played in Lusail. Here are the top moments and biggest plays from the World Cup final.
Your World Cup champions: Argentina
FINAL: Argentina defeat France on penalties to win the 2022 World Cup
This game was everything today. With the entire world watching and two of the sport's biggest stars -- and club teammates at Paris Saint-Germain -- squaring off head-to-head for the title, these teams delivered arguably the best World Cup final of all time, and one that ended fittingly with the game's greatest player, Lionel Messi, finally winning a World Cup.
That trophy was often the one mark against him when it came to GOAT conversations, as if all his accomplishments with his club and individual milestones were in some ways negated by not winning the one trophy that requires endless luck to claim. The sport is littered with greats who never even got to play at a World Cup, let alone win one, such is the variance and fortune across the seven games you'd need to navigate in order to win it. At times, it felt as though he'd never win it, such was his misfortune or the sheer fact that they ran into a better team: in the end, 11 is better than one, right?
The greatest to ever do it. Lionel Messi, World Cup champion 🐐 pic.twitter.com/d1VqCu6Qhc— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) December 18, 2022
But here, he stepped up and answered the call time and again, even as they could have collapsed when Kylian Mbappe erased Argentina's 2-0 lead in just 93 seconds toward the end of the second half. They kept pushing, they kept pressing and they didn't let the wild swings in momentum deny them.
Credit also must go to Emi Martinez, who made endless crucial saves when it seemed as though France were destined to make Messi cry once again. Even in the shootout, Martinez was immense: Messi scored his spot-kick, but Martinez made one save and was sure to smother Aurélien Tchouameni's effort had it not been blazing wide. All of which reinforces the point that this is a team game, and for as good as Messi is, he needed help in Lusail on Sunday. And for once, in his 26th World Cup game and fifth appearance in the tournament -- as well as his second World Cup final appearance -- his teammates delivered.
History will remember this as Messi's World Cup, but Argentina won that trophy together. -- James Tyler
ARGENTINA WINS THE 2022 FIFA WORLD CUP 🇦🇷— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) December 18, 2022
THE GREATEST MEN'S FIFA WORLD CUP FINAL OF ALL TIME pic.twitter.com/xp1N6DkLjA
Argentina score and win! Montiel's penalty sends Hugo Lloris the wrong way, and that's it! Messi has his World Cup! Argentina win the World Cup!
France score, but still trail 3-2: Kolo Muani with an excellent penalty, high and up the middle, leaving Martinez no chance!
Argentina lead 3-1: Leandro Paredes sneaks his spot-kick under Lloris' dive and while the keeper got a hand to it, it still has enough power to get in! They're nearly there...
France MISS: Tchouameni fires low to Martinez's right, and while he beats the outstretched hand of the keeper, he also misses the post! A big advantage for Argentina ...
Argentina lead 2-1: Sub Paulo Dybala's first action of the match is to sidefoot his penalty right down the middle, with Lloris diving vainly to his left.
France MISS: Coman fires it to Martinez's right and this time, it's close enough to him that the keeper can parry it away!
Argentina 1-1: Messi goes first and beats Lloris!
France 1-0: Mbappe thunders his to Martinez's right and gets it beyond his hand
We are going to penalties! Argentina 3-3 France!
Two incredible saves at either end, with Lloris denying Lautaro Martinez and then Emi Martinez sprawling out to deny Kolo Muani, and we're going to penalties! This is a cruel, cruel way for one of these teams to lose, but it's been an incredible showpiece final worthy of any sport. I sincerely wish this game could last forever. -- Tyler
120th minute: [Breathes into paper bag]
Goal, France! Mbappe completes hat trick, 3-3 in World Cup final
117th minute: Kylian Mbappe sends Lautaro Martinez the wrong way from the penalty spot, and it's all tied again!
HAT TRICK FOR MBAPPÉ 🎩🇫🇷 pic.twitter.com/EbHvGiaBIP— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) December 18, 2022
116th minute: PENALTY TO FRANCE! With minutes left between them and the World Cup title, Gonzalo Montiel put his arm in the way of a speculative shot from the edge of the box and it clearly whacks his arm. Referee immediately points to the spot. Up steps Mbappe ... -- Tyler
Goal! Argentina 3-2 France!
108th minute: Is that the strike to seal this for Messi? After another sharp Lloris save in extra time, Argentina work the ball forward to Lautaro Martinez, who plays a clever one-two with Messi. After another exchange of passes, Messi pounces on the loose ball to bundle it over the line after Lloris could only parry Martinez's ferocious shot into the No. 10's path.
IT HAD TO BE MESSI 🐐🇦🇷 pic.twitter.com/KF5wggitVF— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) December 18, 2022
While Jules Kounde blocks the ball back into play, it clearly crossed the goal-line and so goal awarded! After a brief VAR check to make sure Martinez was onside after the Messi pass, it's given. Just 10 minutes to go! -- Tyler
THE FINEST MARGINS ON THE BIGGEST STAGE.— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) December 18, 2022
ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED? pic.twitter.com/EX32UxnaTS
Extra time updates
105th minute: CHANCE FOR ARGENTINA! And Dayot Upamecano's lunging tackle may have kept France in this World Cup. After great approach play by Mac Allister and Messi, the ball is slipped to substitute Lautaro Martinez with seemingly the entire goal to aim at from 12 yards out. Yet Upamecano throws himself in front of the shot, blocking it to safety, and France survive to reset.
Moments later, a long ball over the top catches France's defense out and reaches Martinez, with just Lloris to beat. Yet Upamecano comes up big again to get a touch on the shot and steer it wide of goal. Incredible defending with what seemed like Argentina preparing to celebrate their third goal. -- Tyler
98th minute: We're nearly through the first 15-minute period of extra time and it's extremely tense on the pitch in Lusail as neither France nor Argentina look prepared to over-commit and be caught out. The next goal could literally win this (though we thought this game was over at 2-0), and there's a sense of caution in the overall patterns of play.
Argentina look exhausted while France have been galvanized by the pace of substitutions Kolo Muani and Coman in particular; equally, the presence of Mbappe in central areas is causing confusion for Argentina's defenders. Rabiot is the next France player to be withdrawn: he's worked tirelessly for Les Bleus today as Youssouf Fofana take his place in midfield. -- Tyler
Final thoughts before full time: Argentina 2-2 France (we are getting bonus soccer)
In the span of one minute and 33 seconds, the entire game shifted beneath us. Two moments -- a silly foul by Nicolás Otamendi, a brilliant volley by Kylian Mbappe -- turned what was a comfortable coronation for Argentina into that sinking feeling that France are going to win this despite playing terribly for the other 88 minutes and 27 seconds in Lusail this Sunday morning. And yet that's what makes soccer the best sport around: On the biggest stage, and in the biggest moments, the brightest stars come to play. Messi and Mbappe have both been there when their respective nations needed them; who has the composure and pose to win it from here? -- Tyler
97th minute: What a save by Hugo Lloris! With Argentina having one more attack and the ball at Messi's feet, his vicious 25-yard shot forces a brilliant parry from Lloris to keep it at 2-2.
94th minute: With just a minute or two left in added time, France are fully in the ascendancy and all the kind things I said about this Argentina team have evaporated. They are the ones looking tired and overwhelmed by the moment rather than France, who have had a couple of late opportunities denied by Emiliano Martinez. Kingsley Coman and Kolo Muani have been brilliant on the wings since coming on for France, and Argentina can't seem to slow them down.
What?! Game on! Mbappe makes it 2-2!
82nd minute: And just like that, it's all tied at two! With Argentina just 10 minutes from victory, Mbappe & Co. have leveled it in the span of one minute and 33 seconds. Messi loses possession in the Argentina half to French substitute Coman, the ball is worked quickly forward and after a clever bit of support play, the ball sits up neatly for Mbappe and he thumps it beyond Martinez on the volley.
What a goal. What a moment. What a bit of magic from Mbappe. And just like that, it's tied at 2 with less than 10 minutes remaining. Get your popcorn ... -- James Tyler
MBAPPE ARE YOU SERIOUS?! 😱— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) December 18, 2022
FRANCE TIES IT pic.twitter.com/qZLzNz3aow
Penalty for France, Mbappe scores! Argentina 2-1 France!
80th minute: Well, well, well, well, well, well! Barely 10 minutes after France's first shot on goal, they have a penalty after Randal Kolo Muani (one of the infamous first-half subs) beats Nicolas Otamendi for speed down the left side, muscles into the box and is hauled down for an obvious spot-kick. Up steps Mbappe, and he thunders it beyond Martinez. Game on! -- Tyler
MBAPPE TAKES ONE BACK FOR FRANCE 🇫🇷— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) December 18, 2022
Game. On. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/cbRZEMnOfv
No looks for Les Bleus
71st minute: Kylian Mbappe takes France's first shot on goal. We're more than three-quarters of the way through the 2022 World Cup final.
In the 71st minute Mbappé takes the FIRST shot of the game for France 😬 pic.twitter.com/qrj0N2Pnt7— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) December 18, 2022
Argentina fans are feelin' it
How much does it mean? These fans made it pretty clear when Messi and Di Maria delivered in the first half.
Argentina's two first-half goals from Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria sparked huge celebrations amongst Argentina fans.
55th minute: So far, the second half has been much like the first, with Argentina dominating possession and France struggling to slow the game down or settle into any kind of rhythm. There was a moment of panic when Emiliano Martinez, who's had nothing to do today, surged off his line to clear a long ball only to mis-kick it, but luckily for him, it didn't ping anywhere that gave France a chance to shoot with him miles off his goal line.
Adrien Rabiot then gets in another heavy tackle on Rodrigo De Paul, who's been brilliant in the Argentina midfield so far today. -- James Tyler
Half-time: Argentina 2-0 France, and Messi is 45 minutes from destiny
Well, it's been a while since we've seen a World Cup final look this lopsided, but so far so good for Messi & Co. as they take a comfortable lead into the break. They've attacked decisively, defended with little trouble and have completely taken Kylian Mbappe out of the game to the extent that France coach Didier Deschamps made two substitutions before half-time in a bid to rescue this game.
Olivier Giroud (anonymous up front) and Dembele (who conceded the penalty) were withdrawn after that spectacular second Argentina goal, but will it make a difference? Argentina had over 60% of the ball in the first half, plus six shots to zero. Their halftime xG (1.46) feels right given their performance.
Teams leading by multiple goals at halftime of men's World Cup KO stage games are 25-0-0 👀 pic.twitter.com/dk6eyjlyXD— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) December 18, 2022
Is there a way back into the game for France? The subs (Marcus Thuram, Randal Kolo Muani) were added to try to give Les Bleus some more control in the middle of the field and more pace out wide, while also pushing Mbappe into a more central attacking role where he can hopefully get more possession and more opportunities to run into space. It's a bold gambit by Deschamps, but he's got no choice. There's no do-overs in the World Cup final, and you've got to wait four years for a chance at redemption. -- Tyler
What a goal! Argentina 2-0 France!
35th minute: Angel Di Maria, who was a surprise starter for Argentina having been featured little during the knockout round, has doubled their advantage in the World Cup final. Messi, Julian Alvarez and Alexis Mac Allister combine in a brilliant counter-attack from one end of the pitch to the other, and Di Maria is there to receive the final pass, take a touch and finesse it beyond a helpless Lloris.
Les Bleus have not looked like the defending champions at all in this competition, but have always been fortunate at key moments in the knockout stages. But Argentina and Messi don't look to be in a giving mood. -- Tyler
OH MY WHAT A GOAL 😱— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) December 18, 2022
2-0 ARGENTINA 🇦🇷 pic.twitter.com/rBH0HSCyFJ
Another record for Messi
With that penalty, the iconic No. 10 becomes the first men's player to score in all four knockout rounds of the World Cup, having scored against Australia (round of 16), Netherlands (quarterfinal), Croatia (semifinal) and now France in the final. -- Tyler
Messi scores from the penalty spot! Argentina 1-0 France!
22nd minute: Not long after France's first attempt on goal, Argentina attack quickly and win a penalty as Ousmane Dembele tripped Angel Di Maria after the winger had made his way into the box from the left flank. The referee doesn't hesitate to point to the spot and up steps Messi ... who calmly sends Lloris the wrong way with a low sidefooted effort into the right corner!
Messi's 12th goal at a World Cup final could be his most important one of all as they take the lead. Fair to say they'll need more goals ... -- Tyler
MESSI PUTS ARGENTINA OUT IN FRONT 🎯🇦🇷 pic.twitter.com/kZkUvRUXC9— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) December 18, 2022
Hey, we know them
Les Bleus' own Paul Pogba -- who has been absent from France's Qatar run due to a thigh injury suffered in October -- is in the stands cheering on his teammates alongside Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimović.
Pogba and Zlatan at the #FIFAWorldCup pic.twitter.com/rMp4M9BGXu— GQ Sports (@GQSports) December 18, 2022
France gets its first chance at goal
20th minute: Another spell of Argentina pressure ends in frustration as a low cross from the right is missed entirely by Messi and makes its way to Di Maria on the left side of the box, who blasts it into the crowd. Moments later, Les Bleus answer with a spell of pressure and get a free kick in a dangerous spot to the left of goal. Olivier Giroud wins the header but climbs over two defenders to reach the ball. -- Tyler
Trouble for France?
11th minute: France's nerves continue to show in the opening exchanges, and we've had our first big opportunity of the day. Some clever approach play by Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria culminates in a clear shot for Rodrigo De Paul, whose low shot is deflected wide for a corner. The French fail to clear, but when the ball comes back into the box, Lloris takes a hard hit from Argentina defender Cristian Romero -- on replay, he was clearly shoved into the France goalkeeper by Upamecano -- as the ball was in the air within yards of the goal.
Lloris is still down, receiving medical attention after the hit. In a cruel twist, Romero plays for the same club (Tottenham Hotspur) as Lloris. After some minutes on the ground, Lloris is back on his feet and staying in the game. -- Tyler
Both teams are showing that raw energy and nerve that you'd expect from playing in the biggest game in the world's biggest sport with national pride on the line. France's Adrien Rabiot and Argentina's De Paul foul each other in the opening two minutes, French winger Ousmane Dembele miscontrols an easy pass and then his teammate Dayot Upamecano puts an elbow into Lionel Messi as the pair challenge for a header. (Not something Messi should be doing, as he's 6 inches shorter than the France defender, but there you go).
France look nervous and have given Argentina a couple of early chances to shoot, but nothing that Lloris couldn't handle between the posts. -- Tyler
In the traditional pregame renditions of the national anthem, you'd have to give the edge to Argentina based on how ferociously the players sang every word. France took a more stoic tone, it seems, singing clearly but not overextending even as the tune reached its rousing crescendo. A very businesslike effort by the defending champions. -- Tyler
Another Messi record
Before a ball has even been kicked in the final, Lionel Messi has set a FIFA record for the most all-time appearances in the men's tournament. Today marks his 26th game at a World Cup final: Will it be the one in which he finally gets to hold the trophy? -- Tyler
#Qatar2022— Selección Argentina 🇦🇷 (@Argentina) December 18, 2022
Te seguimos, capitán 🔟 pic.twitter.com/uFafuDmoAm
After a scary few days in which several players were suffering from a flu-like virus, the entire France squad is fit and eligible for selection. Therefore coach Didier Deschamps has named the same XI that started the quarterfinal against England, with Dayot Upamecano and Adrien Rabiot both back in the team. This is also a 20th World Cup final appearance for goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, which is a record for his position.
La Feuille de match et la compo des Argentins 👊#ARGFRA #FiersdetreBleus pic.twitter.com/OfUxvYJaNs— Equipe de France ⭐⭐ (@equipedefrance) December 18, 2022
As for Argentina, veteran winger Angel Di Maria is back in the team, replacing Leandro Paredes. Di Maria hasn't featured much since the group stages; will coach Lionel Scaloni be praised and hated for the move? -- Tyler
Argentina and France are two of only eight nations to win the men's World Cup, and they are both seeking their third title in Qatar. Whoever wins, Brazil's status as the most successful team in the competition's history with five wins will remain intact (though that will be cold comfort for Neymar & Co. as they watch their rivals contest the final today).
Argentina are in their sixth final, since they lost the inaugural showpiece 4-2 to hosts Uruguay in 1930. They won it on home soil in 1978 and -- inspired by Diego Maradona -- again in Mexico in 1986, but after losses in the final in 1990 and 2014, the Albiceleste will be desperate to avoid a hat trick of final heartbreak.
France, meanwhile, are going for their third World Cup triumph in a quarter century. After winning the trophy as hosts in 1998, they were back again in 2006 but lost on penalties to Italy (in a shootout which followed the headbutt from Zinedine Zidane on Marco Materazzi). Their victory over Croatia in 2018 gives them the chance to become the first team since Brazil in 1962 to retain the title. -- Tony Mabert
Despite meeting in the first World Cup in 1930, this is only the fourth time these two sides have met in the tournament. Argentina won that first clash in Uruguay 1-0 en route to the final, before claiming a 2-1 win in 1978, which led to their first title.
However, their most recent meeting at the last World Cup went France's way. Les Bleus won a truly wild 4-3 clash in the round of 16 in Russia. Kylian Mbappe won a penalty for Antoine Griezmann to score the opening goal, and later got two himself, but not before Angel Di Maria and Benjamin Pavard each scored one of the top goals of the tournament. The highlights are well worth a watch. We can only hope for anything close to a repeat at Lusail today. -- Mabert