FOOTIE icon Lionel Messi fell to his knees in tears and hugged his two young sons after winning the World Cup yesterday in the greatest final since 1966.
The Argentine captain, 35, led his country to victory in an epic match against France – and then couldn’t wait to celebrate with his family.
He tearfully hugged his mother, Celia Maria Cuccittini, on the pitch before his two eldest sons, Matteo, seven, and Thiago, ten, ran to hug their father.
Argentine fans on the field and all over the world watched their hero beam with a radiant smile and lift the Gold Cup – capping off an incredible career.
The young wizard, playing in his last tournament, scored a penalty as his side took a 2-0 lead but late goals from French superstar Kylian Mbappe moved the thrilling match into extra time at Qatar’s Lusail Stadium.
Messi and Mbappe scored again before Argentina won 4-2 on penalties in an agonizing finale.
Football TV host and former England striker Gary Lineker said afterwards: “It’s been an absolute privilege to watch Lionel Messi for nearly two decades.
“Moment after moment of breathtakingly dazzling and exhilarating football. He is a gift from the football gods. Very pleased that he has lifted the ultimate prize in our sport. Gracias y felicidades, Campeón”.
Comedian and Three Lions singer David Baddiel tweeted: “What a great game. The World Cup Final can hardly be like this.”
Piers Morgan, TalkTV host and Sun columnist, tweeted: “Very exciting. What an advertisement for the beautiful game.
“Congratulations to Lionel Messi his team. Consolation to the French who gave everything, especially the great Mbappe. Football eh… bloody hell!”
Prince William tweeted his congratulations to Messi and called him a GOAT (Greatest Ever) emoji.
He wrote: “What. A. Final. Congratulations to Argentina and Messi. Condolences to France – both teams played brilliantly. W”
Sir Geoff Hurst, England’s 1966 hat-trick champion, paid tribute to the 23-year-old French player Mbappe, who equalized him by becoming the second player to score three goals in a World Cup final.
Sir Jeff, 81, said: “Congratulations to Mbappe whatever happens. You’ve had a great run!”
Messi became the first Argentine to lift the World Cup since the late Diego Maradona in 1986 – joining him on the nation’s pedestal as the god of soccer.
Five hundred fans gathered at the former home of Maradona – who died at the age of 60 in 2020 – to watch the victory on a big screen by the pool after its new owners opened the doors for an exclusive party.
Argentine expats in Britain celebrated with an impromptu party outside the Moo Cantina gastropub in Pimlico, South London. Others gathered in Piccadilly Circus, London, waving their country’s flag.
More than 100,000 supporters thronged the streets of the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires.
Footage showed them jumping and hugging as Gonzalo Montiel took the winning penalty.
- TELLY football pundit Gary Neville sparked outrage yesterday after appearing to liken the rights of migrant workers in Qatar to nurses’ strike in the UK over wages. The former England defender, 47, made a tirade about the government’s treatment of NHS staff on ITV ahead of the big game.
- Additional reporting: THOMAS GODFREY
Play there with the best
By Nick Parker at Lusail Stadium
I saw Gazza’s tears at Italia 90 and Beckham’s dismissal in 1998, and after seven World Cups, I thought I’d seen every possible drama.
Most seasoned football watchers like myself would have expected Argentina and France to play a dull, tight, cautious duel. How wrong we were.
The teams gave us a match that beat fireworks to Lionel Messi lifting the trophy.
With ten minutes remaining, however, France did not take a shot on goal. I already wrote my story about the victorious Messi.
The line was included: “French President Emmanuel Macron showed up with 5,000 fans – but it’s a pity their team didn’t.”
Then, within 90 seconds, Kylian Mbappe kicked it in with a penalty and a great shot. This meant extra time, and with it more expectations of safe, no-risk play.
The teams had none of it. Messi appeared in the third after Mbappe was able to respond with a second penalty.
Argentina prevailed in the ensuing penalty shootout in the biggest World Cup final ever.
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