I have been a supporter of Argentina since my childhood; since they won the 1986 World Cup. Since then I have suffered more downs than ups with the team; I have been sad, angry and desperate about their lack of results (as amply demonstrated in this very blog) and more often than not been close to giving up. Although the current national team had given us plenty of reasons to be optimistic (as I had also said on this blog) there were so many disappointments that I did not want to be too optimistic despite them having reached the World Cup final against a French team that was looking strangely more vulnerable as the tournament advanced.
The first half of the World Cup final gave every reason to be optimistic: Argentina were fantastic, far better than a French side that looked poor. The first half statistics said it all: Argentina had 15 shots on goal, and France did not once have a shot. Argentina were leading 2-0 on a penalty goal by Lionel Messi, and a truly great counterattack strike by Angel Di Maria. In the second half the French came out a bit more offensive (Marcus Thuram and Kolo Muani came on for Oliver Giroud and Ousman Dembele), but Argentina still appeared to be in full control of the match, and were even creating more chances.
At this point I was completely relaxed, quietly beginning to celebrate what I had been waiting for...
But to be Argentina fan is to suffer.
The great Kylian Mbappe scored first on a penalty that Nicolas Ottamendi committed on Kolo Muani, and only two minutes later he equalized on a splendid first-timer. 2-2 with only five minutes left.
It was so unfair! Argentina had been so much better! But France and not least Kylian Mbappe were threatening to show one of the greatest truths in football (and in life): you do not need to be the best to be a winner.
The match went into extra time, and Argentina remained the better side, although the goals had given the French a threatening confidence that they could take the match nevertheless.
And I was scared.
Then Messi put things right by bringing Argentina ahead 3-2. I was again (carefully) happy with all my hopes within reach.
But soon my hopes were shattered once again, as another penalty gave the annoyingly brilliant Kylian Mbappe the opportunity to score his third goal of the match and make it 3-3.
It took the match into penalties although Emiliano Martinez, "Dibu", made a save from a Kolo Muani free-runner that almost made me shit my pants and could easily have meant that France would be World Champions.
Penalty kicks are always nerve-wrecking. That said, this one was one-sided as Argentina were dominant. The players scored on every shot, and as he did against the Netherlands, Dibu saved Kingley Coman's penalty. When Aurelien Tchouameni missed the goalposts altogether, Gonzalo Montiel scored the last penalty for Argentina, making them World Champions.
After so much suffering I lifted my arms in a victory that had appeared so unlikely for so long!
I am still wearing my Argentina shirt!
The final was unique: a never-seen before score of 3-3, with two of the best players in history, Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe, scoring respectively two and three goals. It had a great Argentina side (France were frankly very poor, in particular in the first half, and this was one of the final's disappointments) but also an incredible French comeback, as well as drama and nerves.
A great World Cup final that took place in a place that should never have hosted such greatness!