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Argentina wins World Cup on penalty kicks over France

Sunday's final capped a month of sporting drama and geopolitical controversy in Qatar.

A World Cup final for the ages delivered a crowning glory for soccer icon Lionel Messi on Sunday as Argentina beat reigning men's champion France on penalty kicks.

One of the most dramatic major sporting events in history had the teams tied 3-3 after extra time, with the French ultimately missing twice in the shootout before Gonzalo Montiel converted to seal an exhausting and emotional victory.

Argentina had dominated the bulk of the match, leading 2-0 with just about 10 minutes to go, but France burst into life with star forward Kylian Mbappé scoring twice in as many minutes. Both sides traded missed chances and then late goals again in the 30 minutes of extra time before the tension of penalty kicks.

The game capped a month of sporting drama and geopolitical controversy in Qatar. The tournament featured surprise results and fairy-tale runs, but the final had two giants of the game compete for the title — headlined by a pair of stars.

The speedy and skillful Mbappé solidified his claim as the young pretender to Messi’s throne, scoring a hat trick as France came so close to being the first team to go back to back since Brazil in 1962.

But ultimately, it was Messi, 35, who took the glory, securing the trophy that cements his status as perhaps the game's greatest ever player by sealing a third title for his soccer-mad country.

Afterward, he said he isn’t through.

“I’m not retiring from the national team. I want to continue playing as a champion,” Messi said in a Spanish-language interview with TyC Sports after the final. “It’s the most beautiful thing there is.”

Follow our live coverage here.

What to know about the World Cup final

  • Argentina wins on penalty kicks after a dramatic final ended 3-3 in extra time.
  • France scored twice in 90 seconds late in the game to stun Argentina and tie the final.
  • Argentina led 2-0 at the half thanks to goals from Angel Di Maria and Lionel Messi.
  • Sunday's final took place in Lusail, a city fast-tracked into existence for the World Cup, which has been clouded by criticism of host Qatar's human rights record, as well as the environmental and financial cost of the tournament.

Photo: Lionel Messi holds the trophy

Argentina's Lionel Messi holds up the trophy after winning the World Cup in Lusail, Qatar, on Dec.18, 2022.
Argentina's Lionel Messi holds up the trophy after winning the World Cup in Lusail, Qatar, on Sunday.Manu Fernandez / AP

Golden Ball awarded to Lionel Messi

Argentina's Lionel Messi, holding the Golden Ball award for best player of the tournament, kisses the World Cup in Lusail, Qatar, on Dec. 18, 2022.
Argentina's Lionel Messi, holding the Golden Ball award for best player of the tournament, kisses the World Cup in Lusail, Qatar, on Sunday.Hassan Ammar / AP

Lionel Messi was awarded the Golden Ball, recognizing him as the tournament's most outstanding player.

Moments after being given the honor, Messi kissed the World Cup.

The resume is complete: Messi has his World Cup trophy

Lionel celebrates after scoring the team's third goal during World Cup final against France on Dec. 18, 2022, in Lusail City, Qatar.
Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring Argentina's third goal.Clive Brunskill / Getty Images

Teammates mobbed the great Lionel Messi moments after the winning kick, knowing he can no longer be dogged by the one trophy not on his mantle.

Despite being a seven-time Ballon d’Or winner and a member of 10 Spanish League championship teams and four UEFA Champions League-winning sides, fans back home in Argentina had long held that missing World Cup trophy against him.

Argentina won last year's Copa America, but fans weren't satisfied until Sunday, when Messi's side won the sport's ultimate prize.


Max Burman

Argentina's Gonzalo Montiel celebrates after the decisive penalty during the World Cup final against France in Lusail, Qatar, on Dec. 18, 2022.
Argentina's Gonzalo Montiel celebrates after the decisive penalty during the World Cup final against France in Lusail, Qatar, on Sunday.Frank Augstein / AP

Gonzalo Montiel converts his penalty, and a dramatic final is won by Lionel Messi and his team!


Max Burman

Randal Kolo Muani ensures this isn't over just yet.


Max Burman

Leandro Paredes makes it 3-1. One away ...


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Aurelien Tchouameni hits it wide, and France has missed 2 out of 3!

Photos: Fans watch as World Cup heads to penalty shootout

Fans watch the World Cup final in Paris on Dec. 18, 2022.
Fans watch the World Cup final in Paris on Sunday.Sebastien Bozon / AFP - Getty Images
Fans watch the World Cup final in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Dec. 18, 2022.
Fans watch the World Cup final in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Sunday.Gustavo Garello / AP


Max Burman

It's advantage Argentina! Paulo Dybala scores.


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Kingsley Coman has his penalty saved by Emi Martinez!


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We are tied on penalty kicks after 1 each.

Mbappé Scores! 1-0 TO FRANCE

Max Burman

Messi next ...

Kylian Mbappé to take first

Max Burman

He's scored two penalties already. Can he again?

Mbappé only second player to hat trick in World Cup final

France's Kylian Mbappé is the first player in more than 50 years to score three goals in a World Cup final.

Mbappé, 23, scored two back-to-back goals at 80 minutes to tie the game after an early deficit for France. HE once again saved Les Bleus’ chances with a penalty kick goal.

England's Geoff Hurst was previously the only player to ever score a hat trick in a World Cup final. He was 24 when he made history against West Germany in 1966.

World Cup to be won on penalties

The 2022 World Cup final will be decided on penalty kicks after Argentina and France could not be separated at the end of extra time.

The shootout will bring back bitter memories for French fans, as the last World Cup to be decided by penalties was France's 2006 loss to Italy. Argentina may have a slight edge, having just won a quarterfinal in a shootout against the Netherlands.

Both teams have scored penalties in the game, adding an extra layer of intrigue to the decisive shootout.

Both teams miss huge chances to win it

Max Burman

First Argentina goalie Emi Martinez thwarts France with an incredible save, then Argentina pours forward and Lautaro Martinez heads wide.

One final twist?

Max Burman

We have three more minutes of a truly stunning final. Can someone win it before penalty kicks?

The NFL must go on as scheduled

English-language viewers in the U.S. will probably have to change channels if they want to see the World Cup trophy presentation.

With 1 p.m. ET NFL kickoffs approaching, postmatch action from Qatar will likely shift from Fox to Fox Sports 1.


Max Burman

France's Kylian Mbappe scores his side's third goal during the World Cup final against Argentina on Dec. 18, 2022, in Qatar.
France's Kylian Mbappe scores his side's third goal during the World Cup final against Argentina in Qatar on Sunda,y.Manu Fernandez / AP

It's 3-3. Kylian Mbappé scores again and we are tied!

The French forward sent the goalkeeper the wrong way and has a hat trick in the World Cup final.


Max Burman

The drama isn't over ... it's a handball.


Max Burman

Argentina's Lionel Messi, right, scores his side's third goal during the World Cup final soccer match between Argentina and France in Lusail, Qatar, on Dec. 18, 2022.
Argentina's Lionel Messi, right, scores his side's third goal in the World Cup final in Lusail, Qatar, on Sunday.Petr David Josek / AP

Lionel Messi has the ball in the net, and Argentina's players go wild.

There were suggestions of a potential offside in the buildup, but the goal stands, and Argentina leads this dramatic World Cup final 3-2 with 10 minutes of extra time to go.

Argentina misses chances

Max Burman

Argentina's Lionel Messi heads the ball next to France's Kingsley Coman, right, during the World Cup final in Lusail, Qatar, on Dec. 18, 2022.
Argentina's Lionel Messi heads the ball next to France's Kingsley Coman, right, during the World Cup final in Lusail, Qatar, on Sunday.Martin Meissner / AP

Argentina came close with a flurry of chances to end the first period of extra time.

Substitute forward Lautaro Martinez was twice played in behind the French line but missed thanks to a combination of desperate defending and wayward finishing.

The weekend of comebacks: Vikings and Les Bleus

The Minnesota Vikings scored the greatest comeback in NFL history on Saturday, and now France is on the verge of another historic rally.

The comparison wasn't lost on American sports fans.

Penalty kicks will follow if no winner after extra time

France and Argentina will be given two additional halves of 15 minutes to decide this final, and the match would go to penalty kicks if there's no winner after that.

The last World Cup final decided by a shootout was in 2006, when France lost to Italy.

Extra time underway

Max Burman

As if 90 minutes wasn't exhausting enough ... we're back underway for 30 more.

Messi almost wins it at the death

Max Burman

Lionel Messi of Argentina reacts during the World Cup final against France on Dec. 18, 2022, in Lusail City, Qatar.
Alex Pantling / Getty Images

Messi may be 35, but he still has enough left in the tank to come oh so close to glory in the dying moments.

After consistent French pressure, a rare Argentina attack in the 96th minute saw the ball fall to Messi in a central position about 25 yards out. He struck a fierce shot that was just a little too close to French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, who parried it away to ensure we would head to extra time.

90 minutes not enough to crown World Cup winner

France and Argentina are headed for at least 30 more minutes of play with the score tied, 2-2.

Extra time in the World Cup final is far from uncommon, as Germany needed more than 90 minutes to defeat Argentina, 1-0, for the 2014 crown in Brazil. Mario Götze scored in the 114th minute for the Germans.

Photos: Kylian Mbappé's  back-to-back goals

France's Kylian Mbappe scores his side's first goal from the penalty spot past Argentina's goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez during the World Cup final soccer match between Argentina and France in Lusail, Qatar, on Dec. 18, 2022.
France's Kylian Mbappé scores his side's first goal from the penalty spot past Argentina's goalkeeper, Emiliano Martinez, during the World Cup final in Lusail, Qatar, on Sunday.Natacha Pisarenko / AP
France's Kylian Mbappe scores his side's second goal during the World Cup final soccer match between Argentina and France in Lusail, Qatar, on Dec.18, 2022.
France's Kylian Mbappé scores his side's second goal during the World Cup final against France in Lusail, Qatar, on Sunday.Manu Fernandez / AP

8 minutes of added time

Max Burman

The officials have added eight minutes on at the end here.

Is there time for one last dramatic twist, or are we heading for an extra 30?

Argentina gives up lead, echoing mistakes in Netherlands game

Soccer fans are in disbelief as France rallied from 2-0 goal deficit with back-to-back goals from Kylian Mbappé at about 80 minutes of play.

Argentina is echoing mistakes it made in the game against the Netherlands earlier in the tournament. The Dutch team equalized the game with two late goals in the quarterfinal. Argentina scraped a win on penalty kicks to advance to the semifinals.

France's comeback was unlikely after it had given up so much of the momentum to Argentina early in the game, but clearly not impossible.

GOAL!! 2-2

Max Burman

Incredible. Kylian Mbappé has scored again, a second goal in two minutes.

A remarkable turnaround from the reigning champs, barely threatening for 80 minutes but bursting into life to level the final and stun Argentina.


Max Burman

It's 2-1 with 10 minutes to go after Kylian Mbappé converts the penalty kick.

Hugo Lloris staying busy, keeping France's slim hopes alive

Lloris, the French captain, has made four saves for Les Bleus, limiting what could be an even more one-sided match.

On the other side of the pitch, Argentina's Emiliano Martínez has not yet needed to stop an on-target French shot.


Max Burman

France has a golden chance to get back in the final!

Nicolas Otamendi brought down Randal Kolo Muani inside the area, and after failing to threaten for 80 minutes, the holders have a chance.

France finally takes a shot on goal after an hour of play

Kylian Mbappé took the first shot on goal for France at the 70-minute mark of Sunday's final match.

Les Bleus are being devastated by the Argentine team, which has taken nine shots on goal and leads 2-0. It's been an abysmal attempt to keep the title of reigning champions by France despite a strong defense and a lineup of stars.

Hugo Lloris making two big plays to keep match within sight

Julián Álvarez's left-footed blast from a short angle was saved nicely by Hugo Lloris in the 59th minute.

Then, moments later, Lloris made a desperate sliding clearance to keep the ball away from Alexis Mac Allister and what could have been another goal for Argentina.

Argentina eases its attack, plays keepaway from France

In a big shift in tactics, Argentina came into the second half taking its time as it looks to secure its lead without exhausting its players.

The team came back after the break and appeared to be slowing down the pace of play. With a 2-0 lead, Argentina is looking to keep possession away from France but without the pressure it previously applied.

France had to come back with a more aggressive offensive than it applied at the beginning of the match. All eyes were on Kylian Mbappé, France’s 23-year-old superstar.

But Mbappé hasn't shown the powerhouse attacks that have made him a French favorite.

France not making much headway into Argentina defense

Twelve minutes into the second half, Les Bleus have barely made a dent into Argentina's stout defense.

Argentina still holds a solid advantage in possession, holding on to the ball 47% of the time, compared to France's 37%.

This 2-0 deficit is looking more mountainous by the moment.

Was it a penalty kick? Referee's call draws scrutiny

Max Burman

Polish referee Szymon Marciniak wasted no time pointing to the spot when Angel Di Maria went down under the challenge of Ousmane Dembele midway through the half.

There appeared to be minimal contact, but the Video Assistant Referee saw nothing worthy of overturning the call. It will be scrutinized long after the game is over, but France has failed to perform regardless of the merits of the decision.

Angel Di Maria of Argentina is fouled by Ousmane Dembele of France, which leads to a penalty kick for Argentina during the World Cup final on Dec. 18, 2022, in Lusail City, Qatar.
Catherine Ivill / Getty Images

Second half underway

Max Burman

Argentina is 45 minutes, and maybe a few more, from glory.

France needs to turn things around to overcome the 2-goal hole it's left itself in.

France, down 2-0 at halftime, looking for a Swiss miracle

Only one team has ever rallied from a two-goal deficit in World Cup final history, and that was staged by a country that's no longer on the map.

In a match known as the "Miracle of Bern," Hungary scored twice in the first eight minutes before West Germany came back for a 3-2 victory in the 1954 final played in the Swiss capital.

France's mountain will be much more steep that West Germany's in "Das Wunder von Bern" as the underdogs responded immediately with two goals that had the match tied at halftime.

Helmut Rahn scored the winner in the 84th minute.

A goal fit for the final

Max Burman

Argentina's second was a thrilling goal that saw them sweep forward at pace, exposing France's defense with pinpoint passes from Messi and others.

The inclusion of Angel Di Maria for Argentina was a slight surprise, but he won the penalty and then converted the second to justify coach Lionel Scaloni's big call.

Angel Di Maria of Argentina celebrates after scoring the team's second goal during the World Cup final against France at Lusail Stadium on Dec. 18, 2022, in Qatar.
Catherine Ivill / Getty Images

Reigning champs outplayed

Though France came in as the World Cup's reigning champions, they failed to show up in the first half against Argentina.

The French team has shown a strong defense throughout the tournament and sought to pick its moments to attack. But cracks showed in the goals from Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria, and with the defense under pressure France's attack has failed to fire.

Argentina has 6 shots to 0 from Les Bleus, who will have to come out of halftime with a more aggressive game if they plan to overcome the deficit.

Struggling France makes early subs

Max Burman

France has barely had a kick so far, and now coach Didier Deschamps has made a pair of changes just before half time.

Center forward Olivier Giroud and wide forward Ousmane Dembele have been replaced by Marcus Thuram and Randal Kolo Muani, who scored in the semi final.

It's surprisingly early to make drastic changes but France needs to shift things, and there were reports of players being struck by a cold virus and some injuries in the past week.

Argentina fans overjoyed as team leads first half 2-0

Argentina fans in Qatar and around the world are besides themselves after a surprise goal from Angel Di Maria offers the team a deeper advantage before the conclusion of the first half.

France is being dominated offensively as Argentina attempts to take their title as reigning champions.


Max Burman

It's 2-0!

Argentina burst through the French defense with a sweeping move on the counterattack and Angel Di Maria lifts his finish past helpless French goalie Hugo Lloris to double his side's lead.

Another free kick for France

France was awarded a second free kick after Argentina fouled Olivier Giroud as he approached the goal.

It's the second free kick where France failed to score in the first half hour of the game.


Messi sends the goalie the wrong way and puts Argentina 1-0 up in the World Cup final.

Penalty to Argentina

Max Burman

Argentina has a penalty after Angel Di Maria was tripped inside the box by a French defender. A chance for Lionel Messi to give his team the lead...

France fails to take lead with free kick

France squandered the opportunity to take the advantage early on after being given a free kick just before the match hit the 20 minute mark.

The kick, taken by Antoine Griezmann, sailed toward Argentina's box where Olivier Giroud attempted to assist the ball into the net.

Unfortunately for the French, the bail sailed well over the net.

Photos: Fans gather in Paris and Buenos Aires

Fans of Argentina cheer before watching the live broadcast of the Qatar 2022 World Cup final football match between Argentina and France in Buenos Aires on Dec. 18, 2022.
Fans of Argentina cheer before watching the live broadcast of the Qatar 2022 World Cup final football match between Argentina and France in Buenos Aires on Dec. 18, 2022.Luis Robayo / AFP - Getty Images
French football fans sing the French National Anthem on the Champs Elysees in Paris as fans gather to watch France play Argentina in the World Cup final on Dec. 18, 2022.
French football fans sing the French National Anthem on the Champs Elysees in Paris as fans gather to watch France play Argentina in the World Cup final on Dec. 18, 2022.Kiran Ridley / Getty Images

Roars all around the fan zones in Doha

Elizabeth Kuhr

Elizabeth Kuhr and Mithil Aggarwal

DOHA, Qatar — Hundreds of roaring fans took to the jam-packed fan zones across Doha as an alternative to the main stadium.

Ahmed Eid, 22, who is Saudi Arabian, said he was rooting for Argentina. "Because Messi. I love Messi," he said.

Another Argentian fan Daniela Tabia, 35, cried as the national anthem played moments before kickoff. "Soccer unites the people," Tabia, who is Cuban-Columbian told NBC News.

Argentina starts on the front foot

Argentina has applied pressure to the reigning champions early on in the final.

The team has already has a couple attempts on France's goal in the first 15 minutes of the gave, failing to score.

Messi led his team into the box for one failed shot on goal, but France's defense has proved hard to break down through the tournament

Argentina earned its first corner kick at about 10 minutes, however. It was taken by Messi and led to chaos in front of the goal that saw Hugo Lloris, the French goalie, go down as he got hit in the stomach while players scrambled.

Will Mbappé repeat Pelé's run?

The golden name in French soccer, forward striker Kylian Mbappé, will attempt to emulate the success of the Brazilian superstar Pelé today.

In 2018, Mbappe joined Pelé to be the only teenagers ever to score a goal at a world cup final. His stunning performance led France to its ultimate victory.

On Sunday, he goes up against his club teammate and Argentian captain, Lionel Messi, to secure his first two world cups, back-to-back, just like Pelé.

Elon Musk seen at FIFA World Cup Final

Elon Musk, Tesla CEO and the new owner of Twitter, was seen at Lusail Stadium in Qatar attending the final.

Musk has been making headlines over his recent changes to Twitter policies, including suspending accounts of multiple journalists who cover him. He recently changed Twitter's terms and conditions to ban accounts who track the locations of private airplanes. He justified the decision by citing safety concerns.

Some Twitter users joked the risk of posting Musk's attendance at the World Cup for fear he might ban accounts for sharing his real-time location. The new Twitter policies don't ban users from posting their own location, which Musk did shortly after others noted his appearance at the game.

Americans in Paris cheer for France

Nancy Ing and Mithil Aggarwal

PARIS, France — Minneapolis resident Casie Budolfson, 47, who was on a holiday with her 13-year-old son Rylan, was cheering for France.

"We’re gonna support France since we’re in Paris," she said, adding the French team was stronger.

“I think we should have more world sports events like this because everybody seems to put aside all their worries and watch the games,” said Budolfson. "Everyone just comes together," she added.

Final reminder: Here's how to watch the World Cup final

U.S. TV viewers can watch the Argentina-France match on their local Fox or Telemundo stations, for English and Spanish broadcasts, respectively.

Fox and Peacock will also stream the title match with kickoff at 10 a.m. EST from Lusail Stadium in Qatar.

"The party is going to be here," French fans cheer in Paris

Nancy Ing and Mithil Aggarwal

PARIS, France — French fans from all across the country have flocked sports bars in Paris, as a celebratory festive mood takes over the streets before the big match kicks off.

"The party is going to be here, it’s going to be better," Lucas Yocom, 21, who came with his three friends from Vosges in northeastern France, told NBC News, adding that there was "no chance" for Argentina to win.“They have just Messi; we have a good team. A very good team. Everyone on the team,” he said.

The lineups are in

Max Burman

Here are how the teams line up for the World Cup final.

The headlines appear to be the return of experienced midfielder Angel Di Maria for Argentina, an attacking addition, and the return of Dayot Upamecano and Adrien Rabiot from illness for France.

Argentina: Emiliano Martínez; Nahuel Molina, Cristian Romero, Nicolás Otamendi, Nicolas Tagliafico; Angel Di Maria, Rodrigo De Paul, Enzo Fernández, Alexis Mac Allister; Julián Álvarez, Lionel Messi.

France: Hugo Lloris; Jules Koundé, Raphael Varane, Dayot Upamecano, Theo Hernandez; Aurélien Tchouaméni, Antoine Griezmann, Adrien Rabiot; Ousmane Dembélé, Kylian Mbappé, Olivier Giroud.

The last time they met

Max Burman

Today's finalists also clashed in Russia in 2018.

A topsy-turvy game in the final 16 of that tournament saw France win 4-3. This Argentina side is much improved, however, and both teams play a style that may mean we're in for a lower scoring affair this time.

Messi's grand finale

This is not just a final between Argentina and France, it's also a tussle with history for Lionel Messi.

Argentina's legendary forward will try, one last time, to clinch what would be both his first and final World Cup at the age of 35.

With over 750 goals for club and country, Messi is already in the pantheon of soccer greats. He's scored five goals so far in Qatar, putting in his best performance on the global stage, and is now hoping to lead his country to its first title since 1986.

Image: Argentina v France: Final - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022
Julian Finney / Getty Images

Can Messi win his first World Cup? France’s Mbappé stands in the way

The first half of France's bid for back-to-back World Cups

France is back Sunday to defend its crown after beating Croatia 4-2 in the final of the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

That tournament marked the emergence of Kylian Mbappé, who was just 19 at the time. He became the only teen after the Brazilian superstar Pelé to score a goal in the World Cup final.

France's other scorers that day were Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann. Pogba missed this tournament through injury but Griezmann has been a key player in the French run, working tirelessly and allowing Mbappé to focus on terrifying opposition defenses.

U.S. envoy to U.N. talks sports and diplomacy

Meagan Fitzgerald

Elizabeth Kuhr

Meagan Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Kuhr

DOHA, Qatar — The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, told NBC News ahead of the final that major sporting events like the World Cup can help fuel progress and smooth diplomacy.

Host Qatar has faced criticism over its human rights record, but Thomas-Greenfield said “we hope we can influence those countries to make changes to accept people who are different...and you can’t do that if you’re not talking to them. If you’re not engaging. That’s what diplomacy is about.”

Scenes from the stadium

Image: Argentina v France: Final - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022
Planes fly above Lusail Stadium prior to kick off .Alex Pantling / Getty Images

The huge environmental cost of the Qatar World Cup

Armelle De Oliveira

Armelle De Oliveira and Patrick Smith

Air conditioning in huge open-air stadiums, hundreds of international flights, lots and lots of lights. 

More than a million people have traveled to Qatar for one of the planet’s biggest sporting events. But as it hosts the soccer World Cup, controversy is also descending on the tiny Gulf kingdom.

Alongside concerns over human rights, anti-LGBTQ laws and the treatment of migrant workers — issues that have dogged the tournament for years — critics say Qatar 2022 will be one of the most environmentally damaging of modern times.

Read the full story here.

All France wants for Christmas...

Max Burman

A World Cup in winter may feel strange, but fans taking part in the traditional Christmas bath in Nice this morning appear to have made a virtue out of it.

VALERY HACHE / AFP - Getty Images

The song that's become the anthem for Argentina's run

Max Burman

Associated Press

Max Burman and Associated Press

If you've watched an Argentina game this World Cup, you've heard it.

Fans clad in blue-and-white have belted it out in the stands, on the streets of Doha and back home in South America. The team has joined in after games both on the field and in videos from the locker room.

"Muchachos,” which was written by a fan, includes references to soccer greats Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi. It also knocks rival Brazil and pays homage to the Argentine soldiers who fought in the Falklands war against Britain.

“Guys, now we’re getting our hopes up again, I want to win the third one, I want to be a world champion,” says the chorus of the song you'll surely be hearing again once the game begins.

Morocco’s surprise World Cup run rallied a legion of Arab fans

Elizabeth Kuhr

Morocco won't be in today's big game, but the team's fairytale run to the semi finals will go down as one of the stories of this World Cup.

Led by coach Walid Regragui, the Atlas Lions beat Belgium, Spain and Portugal thanks to a style that combined stout defense with daring counterattacks.

Morocco lost to France in the semi finals, but not before they sealed their place in soccer folklore as the first African and Arab team to reach that stage. The run was backed by a legion of loud and proud fans in Qatar and beyond.

Read the full story here.

Why Qatar may see the World Cup as a win despite the criticism

Elizabeth Kuhr

Elizabeth Kuhr and Alexander Smith

Qatar’s World Cup appeared to be a public relations disaster.

The event has become a magnifying glass for the tiny petrostate’s human rights record, highlighting rather than airbrushing its treatment of LGBTQ people, women and migrant workers. On the field, the Qatari national team’s performances earned it the sorry record of being the worst showing by a host nation in the competition’s 92-year history.

But for this gas-rich Gulf peninsula, the real spoils of this tournament may be found elsewhere: satisfied visitors, business deals and international recognition that could lead to greater national security.

Read the full story here.

How they made the final

Max Burman

France qualified easily from the group stage and beat Poland in the first knockout round, before squeezing past England in the quarter final. Surprise package Morocco, the tournament's Cindarella team, were waiting in the semi final but Les Bleus advanced thanks to an early goal from defender Theo Hernández and a late second from young substitute Randal Kolo Muani.

Argentina opened its campaign with a shock defeat to unfancied Saudi Arabia but still recovered to top its group. A narrow win over Australia was followed by a tense penalty shoot-out victory over the Netherlands, which had knocked out Team USA a round prior. Messi then led a comfortable semi final win over Croatia. which had knocked out favorites Brazil a round earlier.

Bronze goes to...

Max Burman

It's the game nobody really wants to play in or let's face it, watch. But the 3rd place playoff gives the losing semifinalists a chance to exit on a high despite their disappointment at missing out on the big game.

On Saturday Croatia beat Morocco 2-1 to seal 3rd place, following their loss to France in the final in Russia in 2018.

Read the full story here.

Image: Croatia v Morocco: 3rd Place - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022
Richard Heathcote / Getty Images

A final for the ages

France, winners of soccer’s most coveted trophy in 1998 and 2018, is seeking to become the first team to win back-to-back men's World Cup titles since Brazil did it in 1958 and 1962.

On the other side Argentina is hoping to capture the country’s first World Cup title since the 1986 tournament, best known for a quarterfinal victory over England that featured legend Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God” goal.

Les Bleus against La Albiceleste. Kylian Mbappé against Lionel Messi. 

Follow our coverage here through kick off at 10 a.m. ET and beyond.