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Argentina win World Cup after victory over France in Qatar

Manchester United defender Lisandro Martinez claims World Cup Winner's Medal

by David O'Neill

Manchester United defender Lisandro Martinez has won a World Cup Winner Medal, after Argentina defeated France in today’s final.

The diminutive centre half did not play in the match, having been named on Lionel Scaloni’s bench as the manager opted for a back four, with no room for Lisandro to make an appearance as a substitute either.

Argentina’s first choice pairing of Nicolas Otamendi and Cristian Romero started, as they have throughout the tournament.

Also on the field from the first whistle was ex-Man United player Angel Di Maria, who took up a left-wing role despite his poor showings in Qatar up to this point.

Nevertheless, Scaloni’s faith in the Juventus winger was repaid within just 22 minutes, when Di Maria won a penalty after drawing a clumsy challenge from behind from FC Barcelona’s Ousmane Dembele.

Lionel Messi coolly converted the spot kick, taking his tally for the tournament to six goals – four of which have been penalties.

Di Maria was at it again later in the first half, when Alexis MacAllistair teed him up for an easy finish after a quick transition left the French dead on their heels.

That put Argentina 2-0 ahead going into halftime, with the Albiceleste certainly deserving of their lead.

France, meanwhile, seemingly had no idea how to get a foothold in the game, with Didier Deschamps making a curious double substitution several minutes before the interval, with both Dembele and Olivier Giroud hauled off.

Reports of a virus circulating Les Bleus’ camp looked to have been undersold, with every Frenchman on the pitch looking utterly lethargic. They ended the half having failed to register a shot.

There was no improvement for the French immediately after the break, with Argentina managing the game effectively whilst probing for a third goal to put the game to bed.

The enormous following of the Argentines was prevalent in the stadium as their fans sung out in appreciation of their side’s total control of the match.

But a glimmer of hope appeared for France in the form of a penalty after substitute Randal Kolo Muani was brought down by former Man City defender Nicolas Otamendi.

Kylian Mbappe converted with a powerful finish and, barely two minutes later, scored again with a sumptuous volley to level the scores in the 82nd minute of normal time.

A frantic eight minutes of added time saw France almost pull ahead on a couple of occasions, with Mbappe driving his team on for a historic comeback.

Still, Hugo Lloris was needed to keep out a thunderous strike from Messi late on, with the game now becoming the battle between club teammates many had forecasted.

As is often the case, extra time proved to be a sluggish affair for both teams as they struggled to replicate the intensity of the first ninety minutes.

A couple of huge chances did fall to Lautaro Martinez just before the interval however, but the Inter Milan forward’s hesitance allowed for a strong block from Dayot Upamecano in the first instance, while his heavy touch and subsequent poor finish let him down in the second.

But Messi had no such hesitancy in the second half of extra time as he pounced on a loose ball in the penalty area to restore Argentina’s lead.

It took VAR intervention to overrule the linesman’s incorrect offside call, but it was soon apparent that Lionel Messi had scored legitimately, edging him closer to an elusive World Cup winner’s medal.

But Argentina still had ten minutes to defend their 3-2 lead as France piled men forward for an equaliser and eventually a handball in a crowded penalty area from Gonzalo Montiel gifted Kylian Mbappe with a second penalty.

3-3. Penalties.

Mbappe and Messi took the first penalties for their teams, both scoring. A heroic save from Emiliano Martinez against Kingsley Coman gave the advantage to Argentina. The Aston Villa goalkeeper then managed to put off Aurelian Tchouameni, whose penalty was skewed wide.

Argentina’s penalty takers were composed and decisive, as they went on to win the shootout 5-2, securing winner’s medals for the Albicelete in an incredible World Cup Final – arguably the best in living memory.

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