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Argentina wins World Cup over France after exciting final

SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

The 2022 World Cup has ended with one of the most riveting final matches in the history of the soccer tournament, as Argentina defeated defending champion France in a penalty kick shootout. Here's what it sounded like in Buenos Aires.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHEERING)

MCCAMMON: The victory gave Argentinean star Lionel Messi his first-ever World Cup title, and it cements his legacy as one of the best to ever play the game. We will get some reaction from Buenos Aires in just a moment with NPR's Carrie Kahn. But first, we begin with NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman, who was in that stadium in Doha, Qatar. Good to talk to you, Tom.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: How are you, Sarah?

MCCAMMON: I'm good. You know, that was a thrilling game, some say the best final ever. What do you think?

GOLDMAN: Yeah. You know, first, I should say the stadium sounded like Buenos Aires, too, because most of the fans in Lusail Stadium were wearing Argentina blue and white. Best ever? Yes, absolutely, no arguably to it, for two reasons - because the absolute thrill of it. It almost cost me my right arm because a fellow reporter next to me on my right kept grabbing and punching me a lot. There were so many moments. And the other reason why I would say greatest ever - there was so much hype beforehand that this would be a classic matchup, and hype is usually hard to live up to. But this one met and exceeded the hype, and the stars did too. Everything you read and heard said Messi and Mbappe, the great French star, would duke it out, and they did - of course, with lots of help from others. Mbappe had three goals. Messi, right now, the most popular man in the entire world, scored two. He got his first World Cup trophy. He won the Golden Ball award for most valuable player of the tournament, and he earned it all. It was just remarkable.

MCCAMMON: Sounds like you might need to stretch tonight, too, Tom, even though you weren't playing.

GOLDMAN: (Laughter).

MCCAMMON: You know, Carrie, you were among an excited throng of people, too, in Buenos Aires watching the final. That must have been quite the roller coaster. What was it like there?

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Oh, my - it was incredible. Roller coaster, emotional free-for-all. I think I was beaten up, too, by fans. And every time there was a goal, these women would grab me and my mic was thrown around, so all my sound sounds like (vocalizing). You know, it's just - in the span of nearly three hours, I think I watched people going from nervousness at the beginning, thrilled for 80 minutes as Argentina was top and then just panic when France tied the score. One woman fainted. It's summertime here and hot, and I was in this huge park in Buenos Aires, and the city set up these huge screens for fans to watch, and they had to add screens for the final because so many people crammed into this park. Here's Jorge Muda (ph). He was crying watching the Argentine captain Lionel Messi lift the World Cup trophy over his head.

JORGE MUDA: (Speaking Non-English language).

KAHN: He says he's been crying and crying. He sounds really subdued there, and he can't find the words to explain how he feels about Messi finally winning the World Cup. It was Messi's last World Cup. He's 35, and this country is celebrating it with him.

MCCAMMON: And, Tom, we've got to talk more about Messi. You know, you could see the relief on his face once it was all over. Does this change the debate about where he falls and the discussion about, you know, who is the greatest ever?

GOLDMAN: Well, it does, because the one shortcoming for him in that debate was a World Cup championship, and now he got it. But, Sarah, the way he got it, not just in the final - he was doing amazing things and putting Argentina on his back from the beginning of the tournament - or, I should say, the second game after the Argentines were stunned by Saudi Arabia in their opener. But, you know, this was not kind of a swan song for a 35-year-old on the other side of his prime. He was fantastic. And, personally, I feel incredibly fortunate to have gotten to see him while he's still such a dynamic player.

MCCAMMON: You know, Carrie, Argentina's had a rough time sagging under soaring inflation and poverty, but this World Cup victory has got to be giving people something to feel good about, right?

KAHN: Oh, my God, yes. I've spoken to so many people here about just that. They say the country has just been suffering terribly. Inflation's nearly a hundred percent by this year's end, and they're just done. They really wanted this. It felt like in those last minutes of the game that the whole country was united and just willing the team to victory. It was a collective victory for sure. And every time there was a goal, everybody was just hugging each other and screaming and jumping up and down.

MCCAMMON: Sounds like a extremely exciting game. That's where we're going to have to leave it. We've been talking with NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman in Doha, Qatar, and NPR's South America correspondent Carrie Kahn in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Thanks so much to you both. Now get some rest and stretch out.

KAHN: You're welcome.

GOLDMAN: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF QUEEN SONG, "WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on NPR.org.
Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on NPR.org.