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Lion Links: 12/19/22

Lionel Messi finally wins the World Cup, Kylian Mbappé scores hat trick to win the Golden Boot, Croatia claims third place, and more.

Argentina v France: Final - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Happy Monday, Mane Landers. Let’s just get right down to it. If you missed Sunday’s World Cup final, you missed what might be the greatest final in soccer for years to come. While I spent my past few days on vacation in Las Vegas, I’m glad I was able to get back in time to relax and witness history being made.

Aside from that, I have officially begun my holiday shopping. Hopefully you didn’t wait until the last minute like I did. It seems to be a weird tradition for me that I regret each year. But enough of that — let’s get to the links.

Argentina Wins the 2022 FIFA World Cup

The 2022 FIFA World Cup final was billed as more than just a match between Argentina and France. There were also storylines revolving around Paris Saint-Germain teammates Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappé facing off on the world’s biggest stage. The battle between the two teams was one for the ages and the two superstars did not disappoint. As soon as the ball was kicked, Messi set a FIFA record for the most all-time appearances in the men’s tournament, with 26. Argentina broke the deadlock first, as France’s Ousmane Dembele tripped Angel Di Maria in the box. Messi stepped up and buried his penalty, becoming the first men’s player to score in all four knockout rounds of the World Cup. In the 35th minute, Di Maria was unmarked in the box on a transition attack and doubled Argentina’s goal after a series of great passes.

Argentina continued to dominate most of the second half until the 80th minute, when Mbappé converted a penalty to cut the lead to 2-1. Minutes later, Mbappé scored my favorite goal of the tournament with a thunderous first-time volley.

With the game deadlocked at 2-2, France and Argentina headed to extra time — but the scoring was not over there. Both Messi and Mbappé found the net again to make the score 3-3 before a penalty shootout. In the end, it was Lionel Messi and Argentina who walked away as victors, winning the shootout, 4-2.

Kylian Mbappé Awarded Golden Boot

Despite falling in the final, Mbappé scored a hat trick to secure his place at the top of the Golden Boot race. Mbappé scored his sixth, seventh, and eighth goals of the tournament to win the award over Messi. He becomes just the second player to ever record a hat trick in a World Cup final, joining England’s Geoff Hurst from the 1966 World Cup.

Argentine players claimed many of the other awards handed out after the tournament. Messi received the Golden Ball, finishing ahead of Mbappe and Croatia’s Luka Modric. Goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez was fantastic in goal for Argentina this tournament, particularly during penalty shootouts, and won the Golden Glove. Enzo Fernandez, a 21-year-old midfielder, played in all seven of Argentina’s matches and was named Young Player of the Tournament.

Croatia Wins Third-Place Match

Croatia edged Morocco in a close 2-1 victory on Saturday to claim a third-place finish in Qatar. Josko Gvardiol, one of the standout players of the tournament, scored a header only seven minutes into the match to give Croatia an early lead. But Morocco fired back in the ninth minute through a close-range header from defender Achraf Dari — his first international goal. Croatian winger Mislav Orsic netted a curled effort in the 42nd minute that proved to be the winner.

“This is bronze with a golden glow. We won a tough game,” said Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic, who also led the nation of just 4 million people to their runners-up finish in Russia four years ago. This is a medal for the Croatian people... It’s really great that we won two medals in two tournaments, big congratulations to my players.”

MLS Player Thiago Almada Makes History

Atlanta United midfielder Thiago Almada became the first active MLS player to win a FIFA World Cup following a 2022 MLS season that also saw him named MLS Newcomer of the Year. While Almada was an unused substitute in the final, he still joined in the celebrations with his teammates as Argentina added a third World Cup trophy to its collection. The league-record signing from Vélez Sarsfield joins an exclusive group of players who have both played in MLS and claimed soccer’s ultimate prize.

Free Kicks

Well, that puts a wrap on the World Cup. As we look forward to the next edition, I can’t wait to see what is in store for the USMNT. I hope you all have a great week and safe travels this holiday season. Vamos Orlando!