‘Lionel Messi Rewrote Soccer History in the Best-Ever World Cup Final’

Brian Phillips, writing for The Ringer:

OK, I’m going to do my best here. But I need you to know exactly what you are getting, as Joan Didion once wrote, and what you are getting is a man who cannot feel his face. My hands are still shaking. There are tears in my eyes. I’m writing this less than 10 minutes after the end of the greatest World Cup final ever, which Lionel Messi’s Argentina won on penalties over Kylian Mbappé’s France, and I do not believe it is recency bias that makes me think that this match was the single most thrilling sporting event I have ever witnessed. Every game is a story. And when you consider the stakes, the performances, the history in the balance, the refusal of either side to lose, the moments of astonishing play, the sudden reversals and wild swings of momentum, the knife’s-edge uncertainty of the outcome, and the epochal significance of a result that brought the career of the world’s best player to an almost magically perfect climax, it is hard to imagine a story more overwhelming or more satisfying than this one.

There’s something so pure — I want to say so innocent — about a story like this. It’s a story that feels lifted from a children’s book, a story unblemished by the disappointments and compromises and hypocrisies inescapable in adult life. This is, in a way, the essence of sport’s appeal to us. It lets us escape, for a few hours at a time, into a better world.

I am not a soccer fan, really, but in 2014 I started getting into the World Cup. Yesterday’s World Cup final was just remarkable: fun, dramatic, exciting, brilliant. Phillips’s take captures it all.

Monday, 19 December 2022