Lionel Messi inspired Argentina to their first World Cup victory since 1986 in an enthralling final vs France; Roy Keane said Sunday's final showed why football 'is the greatest game on the planet' while former Argentina defender Pablo Zabaleta said it was 'the perfect story for Messi'
Monday 19 December 2022 12:01, UK
Gary Neville felt it was Lionel Messi's destiny to win the World Cup in his final game at the tournament, while Jamie Carragher said the final will go down as one of the greatest games of football ever.
Messi scored twice at the Lusail Stadium as Argentina beat France 4-2 on penalties after an exhilarating 3-3 draw following extra-time to claim the only piece of silverware that has eluded him in his trophy-laden career.
Neville described the final as "one of the greatest things I've ever seen in my life" and heaped praise on Messi for his talismanic performances for Argentina in Qatar.
"Messi should be the centre of attention and it feels right that he has won a World Cup," Neville told ITV. "It feels like destiny was there for him and he's contributed enormous amounts during this tournament.
"During his whole career, he's lit up every game he's played in. If you've watched Lionel Messi play live you are truly blessed. The passion, emotion, fight and spirit of Argentina - their nastiness to the very end with Emi Martinez in goal - was absolutely amazing.
"You can just feel the emotion through the stadium."
Neville expects Messi and his side to inspire the next generation of potential footballers just as Diego Maradona did for him as a boy when he won the World Cup with Argentina in 1986.
"We were watching the clips of Maradona back in '86 before the game and I was young watching it in my childhood," Neville added.
"The kids who were my age back then will be watching this tonight thinking they want to become a footballer and become engrossed and embedded in the culture of football.
"It's had a massive impact on me that game tonight, but it will have a massive impact on everyone."
Jamie Carragher said the game - which saw France twice fight back thanks to a Kylian Mbappe hat-trick, the first in a World Cup final since Geoff Hurst's for England in 1966 - would go down in history as one of the best ever.
He tweeted: "One of the best games of all time!"
"This game showed why football is the greatest game of all. This one is an all-time classic. So many twists & turns, but this save from Emi Martinez was the biggest turning point."
The Sky Sports pundit also said Messi is now the best player of all time by his estimation just ahead of Maradona.
Carragher posted his list on Twitter: "1: Messi 2: Maradona 3: Pele 4: Ronaldo 5: Zidane." But he did not clarify whether it was Cristiano Ronaldo or the Brazilian Ronaldo in fourth.
Roy Keane said it was a fitting end to Messi's international career and praised the forward for dealing with the pressure to perform when it really mattered.
"Do you know what happens to a player sometimes when you're under so much pressure, obviously it will hit him over the next few weeks and months, but it is more relief that you've got over the line," said Keane.
"The amount of pressure he's been under for a number of years, to do it in his last game for his country, what an ending for him."
Keane said Sunday's final at the Lusail Stadium was a great example of why football "is the greatest game on the planet".
"It was an amazing game, enthralling, nerve-wracking," he added. "There were real moments of quality, desire and spirit.
"You can't begrudge them. This is years and years and years of hard work from being kids and wanting to win the World Cup with Argentina.
"They deserve all the credit in the world. They had to win the game three times, and they had to do the same against the Dutch.
"For all their quality, they've shown great spirit and fight."
Former Argentina defender Pablo Zabaleta was close to tears after the match and said it was "the perfect story for Messi".
"I'm so emotional. It's one of those moments," he said on BBC One.
"I'm just watching Messi. Thank you to everybody for that great game. What a perfect story for Messi.
"He deserves it. 100 per cent. Everyone is just crying."
Argentina's match-winning goalkeeper Emi Martinez says he played the match of his dreams against France as he was once again the hero in the penalty shoot-out.
"It was a game where we suffered," said Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, who saved one penalty in the shootout on Sunday but had also saved two more spot kicks in their quarter-final against Netherlands.
On a night of high drama and fluctuating fortunes, Argentina squandered a 2-0 lead in regular time before going back in front in extra-time with Messi's second goal. But then Mbappe completed his hat-trick to level 3-3 in the 118th minute with France's second penalty that forced the shootout.
"Two c**** shots and they (France) levelled. They give them another penalty, they scored. Thank God later I did my thing, what I dreamed of," Martinez said.
"There could not have been a World Cup that I have dreamed of like this. I was calm during the penalties."
For Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni it was a nail-biting finish to a turbulent tournament and he could not hold back his tears following the final whistle.
"I cannot believe that we have suffered so much in a perfect game. Unbelievable, but this team responds to everything," Scaloni said.
"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.
"We who live for this and who have been through the good and the bad are used to these things... Above all it is an incredible enjoyment. Being at the top as we are now is something unique."
It was the third world title for Argentina and the first since the late Maradona won the trophy almost single-handedly in 1986.