Argentina vs. France: The 2022 FIFA World Cup final was arguably the greatest World Cup soccer match of all time. A dialectical duel between an aging legendary veteran, Lionel Messi, age 35, in the fall of his career and the dawning of the sport’s future in the abilities, power and intelligence of Kylian Mbappé, age 23.
Regulation time ended in a 2-2 tie, extra time ended in a 3-3 tie and, finally, Argentina won the match by a score of 4-2 on penalty kicks, hence the final score of 3-3, 4-2, if we want to be technical.
Argentina has won three World Cups—1978 in Argentina, 1986 in Mexico and 2022 in Qatar. France has won two World Cups—1998 in Paris and 2018 in Russia.
These two teams won their first championships when the FIFA World Cup was located in their home countries. The next World Cup will be hosted by the United States, so perhaps this trend could be a harbinger for the U.S. team in 2026.
During the regular soccer season, both Messi and Mbappé play for PSG, or Paris Saint-Germain, as teammates.
“One of the most thrilling finals in the tournament’s 92-year history finished 3-3 through extra time, with Messi scoring twice and Kylian Mbappé completing a hat trick.” (Fresno Bee, Dec. 20)
Mbappé was the top scorer of the FIFA championship matches with eight goals, whereas Messi had seven. Mbappé thus received the 2022 World Cup’s Golden Boot award as the tournament’s top scorer.
At age 23, Messi (Mbappé’s current age) had played in 269 games versus Mbappé’s 302, Messi had 108 goals versus Mbappé’s 222, Messi had 82 assists versus Mbappé’s 111, Messi had 57 international appearances versus Mbappé’s 63, and Messi had 17 international goals versus Mbappé’s 33.
Mbappé already beats Messi in the data points that count for legendary status. In addition, Mbappé has scored 12 goals in just two World Cups at the young age of 23.
The French team for the championship was diverse: five White European players and six African players. The African players are all French citizens, but they also represent the countries of their birth and ethnic lineage from Africa. Mbappé is from Cameroon.
In the waning minutes of the final match, the French coach, Didier Deschamps, put all the African players in the game. The only White player remaining at the end of the match was the goalkeeper.
All the African players executing their assigned roles as team members reminded me of teams in the NBA Finals, which are mostly African American players who are American citizens. The French coach felt that the best players to win the game for France was a primarily all-Black/African team.
However, racism is alive and well in France. Aurélien Tchouaméni, a French player of Cameroon origin, missed his penalty kick and the opportunity to give France a point; he later had to disable his Instagram account following racist comments from French fans.
“Mbappé had already experienced the feeling of winning the World Cup. In 2018, he and France lifted the trophy in Moscow, where Mbappé had become the first teenager since Pelé to score in the final. On Sunday, he was hoping to match Pelé again and make France the first country to retain the trophy since Pelé’s Brazil in 1962.
“He had already done Pelé one better before the game went to penalty kicks: Not even the Brazilian great had ever scored a hat trick in a World Cup final. Mbappé was the first since 1966.” (New York Times, Dec. 19)
Congratulations to Messi and his team Argentina for winning the FIFA World Cup 2022 and ending his career at the top of his profession.
Congratulations to Mbappé and the diverse Pan African Team France.
Go Mbappé! The future G.O.A.T.!