By Ben Church, CNN
Lionel Messi and his Argentina teammates were certainly made to suffer, but eventually, they got their hands on the World Cup trophy Sunday, after beating France on penalties in arguably the greatest final in the tournament’s history.
It’s a moment that will never be forgotten and Argentina’s heroic players could barely sum up their feelings after the full-time whistle.
“I’ll never forget it. We had to suffer but we deserved to win” said Argentina’s Rodrigo De Paul after the match, per Reuters.
“We’ve beaten the last champions, it’s a joy I cannot put into words. I’m proud of being born in Argentina and today we are on top of the world.”
It was a pulsating night of action inside the Lusail Stadium with Kylian Mbappé scoring two late goals to cancel out Argentina’s 2-0 lead from the first half.
Messi then looked to have scored an extra-time winner with his second of the game but Mbappé, with the bit between his teeth, forced the match into penalties after completing his hattrick from the spot in the 118th minute.
Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez was, yet again, on hand to save his country in the shootout, keeping out Kingsley Coman’s effort before Aurelien Tchouameni pulled his effort wide.
Martinez, who had already saved two penalties in his side’s quarterfinal win against the Netherlands, was also named goalkeeper of the tournament after a string of impressive performances in Qatar.
He was brilliant on Sunday, producing a stunning save in the final moments of extra time when it looked certain that Randal Kolo Muani would score the winner.
“It was a game where we suffered,” Martinez said, per Reuters.
“There could not have been a World Cup that I have dreamed of like this. I was calm during the penalties.”
‘It’s a historic moment’
Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni, who guided the team through highs and lows at Qatar 2022, was emotional after the match and struggled to hold back the tears as he was embraced by his players.
“I cannot believe that we have suffered so much in a perfect game. Unbelievable, but this team responds to everything,” Scaloni said, per Reuters.
“I am proud of the work they did. It is an exciting group. With the blows we received today, with the draws, this makes you emotional.
“I want to tell people to enjoy, it’s a historic moment for our country.
“Above all it is an incredible enjoyment. Being at the top as we are now is something unique.”
Messi, who was mobbed by his teammates when Gonzalo Montiel converted the winning penalty, was instrumental in his side’s famous victory but the future is bright for Argentina with a number of young stars impressing.
Chief among them was midfielder Enzo Fernandez, who was crowned the tournament’s best young player.
“It is a moment that I will never erase in my life,” Fernandez said, per Reuters.
“Having the chance to win the World Cup with my country is priceless. Let’s take the cup and celebrate together.”
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