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It’s easy to be a prisoner of the moment and claim the exciting, dramatic, historic game you just saw — in any sport — is the greatest game of all time. After the 2022 World Cup final, where France and Argentina played to a 3-3 draw through extra time and went to a shootout, where Argentina prevailed, the debate began as to if the match, which included the GOAT, Lionel Messi, and the possible future GOAT, Kylian Mbappe, is the best we’ve ever seen. As far as American soccer pundit Alexi Lalas is concerned, this World Cup final takes the cake.

Alexi Lalas says the 2022 World Cup final is the greatest ever

2022 World Cup final, Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe, Alexi Lalas
(L-R) Alexi Lalas, Lionel Messi | Mike Stobe/International Champions Cup/Getty Images; Visionhaus/Getty Images

“You are looking at Doha, Qatar,” Alexi Lalas started his postgame comments. “The site of the greatest World Cup final in history. We just witnessed something that will live long — and rightfully so — in the memories of all that saw it and will hear tell of it for years to come.”

Lalas continued by explaining the three keys to the 2022 World Cup final being the best of all time. It was “the drama, and the significance, and obviously, ultimately, the payoff.”

Let’s look at those three aspects that Alexi Lalas identified and try and decide if this match was, in fact, the best-ever World Cup closer.


The Kylian Mbappe-Lionel Messi World Cup Final Is the Perfect Passing of the Torch Moment

The drama of Argentina vs. France

For the first 80 minutes of the game, there wasn’t all that much drama in the Argentina-France final. A Lionel Messi penalty followed a foul on Angel Di Maria in the 23rd minute and put the South American side 1-0. Thirteen minutes later, Di Maria scored himself, putting Argentina up 2-0.

That score held until France — and, more specifically, Kylian Mbappe — woke up in the 80th minute. That’s when the French Paris Saint-Germain star scored on a penalty and then one minute later on an incredible volley.

That sent the match to extra time, where Messi seemingly won the trophy in the 108th minute by putting in a rebound past French keeper Hugo Lloris. However, Mbappe had other ideas, and he converted his second penalty in the 118th minute to send the game to penalties.

Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe both took the first kick for their teams, starting the shootout as a 1-1 draw. However, Argentina penalty-kick specialist Emiliano Martinez saved a shot by Kingsley Coman, and Aurelien Tchouameni sent his wide.

On the other side, Paulo Dybala, Leandro Paredes, and Gonzalo Montiel all put their shots from the spot past Lloris, and Argentina won the 2022 World Cup final.

The significance of Kylian Mbappe vs. Lionel Messi

A 3-3 match that ended in a penalty shootout is dramatic, but there have been several dramatic World Cup finals in the past. The 2014 final ended 1-0 after the 113th minute of extra time, 2010 went to the 116th minute, and 2006 went to penalties after a 120-minute 1-1 draw.

However, while there were stars in all these games, none of them had the wattage of Kylian Mbappe vs. Lionel Messi.

For Mbappe, he was looking to be the first superstar to win back-to-back World Cup finals since Pele in 1962 (and the Brazil star didn’t even play in the ’62 final). For Messi, he was looking for his first World Cup in his all-time great career.

And what makes this even more significant is that the PSG teammates delivered.

Messi converted two penalties and scored in extra time. Mbappe converted three penalties and scored in the run of play as well, becoming just the third person in World Cup history — joining England’s Geoff Hurst in 1966 and the USWNT’s Carli Lloyd in 2015 — to score a hat trick in a World Cup final.

The payoff of Messi becoming the GOAT

After 120 minutes of dramatic, significant football, the payoff of this match was that Lionel Messi won his first World Cup.

For years, the debate raged as to whether Messi is the GOAT. World Cup-winning players like Pele or Brazil’s Ronaldo had that trophy over him, as did Messi’s countryman, Diego Maradona.

Now, while there could still be an argument for Pele, it is hard to have Messi as anything less than the No. 2 player of all time and likely the best when you factor in his professional accomplishments.

And that, ultimately, is the cherry on the sundae that makes the 2022 World Cup final, as Alexi Lalas says, the best of all time.