Lionel Messi’s parallels with Diego Maradona and other images that define the World Cup final

With all the eyes and camera lenses of the world pointed at one moment in Qatar, you can bet some striking images have been captured at the World Cup final.

The moments of Lionel Messi’s official elevation to GOAT status and Kylian Mbappé’s ultimately futile brilliance punctuated a night like no other at Lusail Stadium.

The moment Argentina and the world had been waiting for

Lionel Messi is on his knees as Argentina players run forward to celebrate winning the FIFA World Cup final.
Messi (top right) dropped to his knees as Gonzalo Montiel’s winning penalty hit the back of the net.(Getty Images: Maddie Meyer/FIFA)

Thanks to a save by Emiliano Martinez and a miss by Aurélien Tchouaméni, the World Cup was on the boot of Gonzalo Montiel when he stepped to the spot for the fourth shot of the penalty shootout.

France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris dove left, but Montiel’s right-footed shot went the other way and into the back of the net.

His Argentina teammates charged forward from halfway, except Messi, who dropped to his knees in joyous relief.

Tiny 10s stand tall

Argentina's Lionel Messi holds the FIFA World Cup trophy while being carried on Sergio Aguero's shoulders after the Qatar final.
After carrying the hopes of a nation for so long, that nation is now lifting up Messi.(Getty Images: David Ramos/FIFA)

After the official celebrations, Messi was hoisted onto the shoulders of his countrymen.

The scenes bore a striking resemblance to the last time Argentina won the World Cup, in 1986.

On that day, a similarly brilliant but diminutive number 10, Diego Maradona, was held aloft by his compatriots.

Argentina captain, Diego Maradona, holds up the trophy after the 1986 World Cup final
Images of Diego Maradona after the 1986 World Cup final are some of the sport’s most iconic.(AP: Carlo Fumagalli, file photo)

Making this year’s moment more poetic, Messi was riding on the shoulders of Maradona’s former son-in-law, Sergio Agüero.

Speaking of Sergio Agüero

Former Argentina player Sergio Aguero lifts the FIFA World Cup trophy during celebrations after the Qatar final.
Sergio Agüero was forced into early retirement in December.(Getty Images: Matthew Ashton/AMA)

Agüero can lay claim to one of the most famous moments in Premier League history with his title-winning goal for Manchester City in 2012, but he missed out on Argentina’s World Cup glory.

The once-prolific striker experienced chest pain during matches last year and had to retire at just 33 years of age due to a cardiac arrhythmia.

He was with the team during their run to the final in Qatar, and the team made sure he got his deserved moment lifting the trophy on the stage.

A star under the stars

Argentina's Lionel Messi touches the World Cup trophy after winning the Qatar final, with camera lights in the background.
OK, they’re not stars, but all the camera lights were trained on Lionel Messi.(Getty Images: David Ramos/FIFA)

As Messi crossed the stage with his Golden Ball award for the tournament’s best player, he approached the trophy he really cared about and touched and kissed it with the sort of love and care one would their own child.

Just as they are when he has the ball at his feet, all eyes were on the Little Maestro.

The best vs the best

Two footballer from opposing teams stand metres apart on a green field.
Kylian Mbappé isn’t known for his defensive prowess, but he was keeping a close eye on Lionel Messi.(AP: Francisco Seco)

The biggest stars in world football are almost always attacking players, and while that is certainly the case when it comes to Messi and Kylian Mbappé, we still get the occasional moment when they face off.

What a stare down.

Mbappé’s miserable mastery

France's Kylian Mbappe stands on a stage with the golden boot award after the 2022 FIFA World Cup final.
Whether it’s the runners-up medal or the Golden Boot, someone is almost alway accepting an award glumly.(Getty Images: James Williamson/AMA)

Three more goals on the biggest stage took Mbappé to eight from seven games in Qatar.

He was electric throughout the tournament and, at just 23 years of age with four World Cup final goals under his belt, will have plenty more opportunities.

But he looked truly miserable as he accepted his award as the tournament’s leading goalscorer after the heartbreaking loss.

Then they made him pose with his executioners

It’s not often that someone scores a hat-trick in a losing effort.

In fact, this was the first time any team has scored three goals and lost a men’s World Cup final.

All France’s goals in regulation and extra time came from the boot of Mbappé, plus the first penalty of the shootout, but it still wasn’t enough.

Enzo Fernandez, Lionel Messi, Emiliano Martinez of Argentina and Kylian Mbappe of France pose with individual trophies.
One of these things is not like the other.(Getty Images: Khalil Bashar/Jam Media)

The runners-up medal will likely be forgotten on the flight home, and accepting the Golden Boot was no fun, but getting him to pose for photos with the men who just ripped his heart out seemed cruel.

Taking care of business

France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and Argentina's Lionel Messi are seen from behind the goal after a penalty in the World Cup final.
Messi kicked off Argentina’s side of the penalty shootout by sneaking a low ball past Hugo Lloris.(Getty Images: David Ramos/FIFA)

A goal may seem a foregone conclusion when a top-flight striker steps to the spot, but as any England fan can tell you, that is certainly not the case.

Having already opened the scoring in the match with a penalty, Messi stepped up and slid a low ball past Hugo Lloris to start the shootout on the right note for Argentina.

Just a couple of kids from Rosario

Argentina's Lionel Messi and Angel di Maria hold the FIFA World Cup trophy in a crowd of people after the Qatar final.
Messi and Angel di Maria come from the same city in Argentina.(Getty Images/ANP)

Born a few months apart in Rosario, Messi and Ángel Di María have ridden the highs and lows of football together.

They faced off on opposite sides of El Clasico for Barcelona and Real Madrid, before linking up at Paris Saint-Germain last season, but it’s for Argentina where they have truly shone.

They won the Copa America last year and Olympic gold in Beijing way back in 2008, but this is the one they wanted.

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