What. A. Match. It’s not great when you have a newsletter to write and all you want to say is “there are no words to describe that match.” I’m Mike Goodman, this is the Golazo Starting XI, and we’re going to try to wrap our brains around Lionel Messi finally winning the World Cup in perhaps the greatest World Cup final in history.
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Before we get to the good stuff, just a brief thanks to everyone for hanging out with us all month. The World Cup may be ending, but soccer never ends. We’ve got all the great club action coming up to cover — especially on Paramount+. Use offer code ALLYEAR now to get 50% off the annual plan. We’ve got UEFA club competitions, Serie A, NWSL, FA Women’s Super League and more just one click away.
⚽ The Forward Line
Lionel Messi has finished soccer
What more is there to say. There’s no need to summarize the match — y’all know what exactly how things unfolded by now. Argentina dominated France, blew a 2-0 lead, took the lead again in extra time, blew it again, and then prevailed on penalties. It was the rare game where there are no goats to blame. There’s only a GOAT to celebrate. Kylian Mbappe, at risk of being labeled a no-show after the first 70 minutes, ended the match with a hat trick and the Golden Ball award for top scorer of the tournament. It’s heroes all around. It’s just that it finally, finally, finally got to be Messi’s day. James Benge tried to process it all.
- Benge: “In the clutch moments Messi was nerveless. The fact that this was his last chance to claim the biggest prize seemingly locked away at the back of his mind. The last great criticism of him was that he froze on the international stage, as he rolled the ball beyond Hugo Lloris in the shootout, the Tottenham goalkeeper’s scrambling back to the other side only serving to heighten the perfection of the finish. It was clear that he had long since answered those questions. There are none left for him now. There is nothing that can follow that will change the fact that he is the greatest. Football? Completed it, mate.”
But you don’t have a final like this — one that transcends questions of whether it was the greatest soccer match of all time — without having a worthy foe. And on that note, you just can’t overlook Mbappe. Jonathan Johnson wrote about how Mbappe distinguished himself.
- Johnson: “Not only was this treble just the second in World Cup finals history, it was the first time it had been done since England’s Geoff Hurst in 1966. Mbappe is also in esteemed company in terms of those players who have scored three World Cup finals goals or more alongside Hurst, legendary Brazilian Pele, fellow Frenchman Zinedine Zidane, and another Samba star in Vava. In terms of Mbappe’s total eight-goal haul in Qatar, it is the highest goal scoring total at a World Cup since Ronaldo Nazario back in 2002 when he also scored eight times. Based on a conservative estimate that Mbappe could play on for at least the next 10 years, that should give him and Les Bleus at least two more shots at glory and possibly a third depending on fitness and qualification.”
And so while the story is deservedly about Messi today, it’s promising to know that the game is in good hands with the stars of tomorrow. It was an absolutely unparalleled day for the sport.
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? Midfield Link Play
What’s next for France
France will continue to be one of the world’s best teams. And, because this squad was already fairly fresh, the future looks bright. It almost certainly wasn’t Didier Descahmps’ first choice to lose Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante and Karim Benzema for this tournament. They went through these hurdles and still made the final with what they had. Not many teams can shrug off Benzema retiring from the national team immediately after Sunday’s loss. It’s clear that there is a young, vibrant nucleus ready to march on and challenge for titles. Johnson has more on France’s future.
Now onto some links.
? The Back Line
The World Cup is over, so let’s look ahead to the UEFA Champions League (on Paramount+). All odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook.
- UEFA Champions League winner
? THE PICK: PSG (+800): I mean, you could take a day off if you wanted. But if you caught the soccer bug and want more, you could go ahead and bet on the team that both Messi and Mbappe (not to mention Neymar) suit up for every week in the biggest club competition in Europe. You know, if you were interested in such things. Make sure to follow SportsLine for the best bets on club soccer.