Lionel Messi raises World Cup for Argentina and tearfully hugs his sons after victory in greatest final since 1966

FOOTIE icon Lionel Messi fell to his knees in tears and hugged his two young sons after winning the World Cup yesterday in the greatest final since 1966.

The Argentinian skipper, 35, led his country to victory in an epic match against France — then couldn’t wait to celebrate with his family.

GettyLionel Messi tearfully embraced his two sons on the pitch following his World Cup win against France in the final[/caption]

ReutersThe Argentinian skipper, 35, led his country to victory in an epic match against the reigning champions – pictured lifting the trophy surrounded by team-mates[/caption]

He tearfully embraced his mother Celia Maria Cuccittini on the pitch before his two eldest sons Mateo, seven, and Thiago, ten, ran on to give their dad a cuddle.

Argentinian fans in the stadium and across the world watched as their hero flashed a beaming smile and lifted the golden trophy — capping a glittering career.

The little magician — playing in his last tournament — scored a penalty as his side took a 2-0 lead but late goals from French superstar Kylian Mbappe took the thrilling game into extra time at Qatar’s Lusail Stadium.

Both Messi and Mbappe scored again before Argentina won 4-2 on penalties in a nail-biting finale.

TV football host and former England striker Gary Lineker said afterwards: “It’s been an absolute privilege to watch Lionel Messi for nearly two decades.

ReutersFrance’s hat-trick hero Kylian Mbappe is downcast after being awarded the golden boot[/caption]

AFPFans party at the home of the late Argentine legend Maradona in Buenos Aires[/caption]

AFPIcon Maradona died aged 60 in 2020[/caption]

Mike Ruane / Story Picture AgencyArgentina fans in London’s Piccadilly Circus celebrate their first World Cup in 36 years[/caption]

“Moment after moment of spellbinding, breathtakingly joyous football. He’s a gift from the footballing Gods. So pleased that he’s lifted the ultimate prize in our sport. Gracias y felicidades, campeón.”

Comic and Three Lions singer David Baddiel tweeted: “What a f***ing game this is. The World Cup final is almost never like this.”

TalkTV presenter and Sun columnist Piers Morgan tweeted: “Utterly thrilling. What an advert for the beautiful game.

“Congrats to Lionel Messi his team. Commiserations to the French who gave it everything, especially the brilliant Mbappe. Football eh . .  bloody hell!”

Prince William tweeted his congratulations to Messi and called him the GOAT (greatest of all time) with an emoji.

He wrote: “What. A. Final. Congratulations to Argentina and to Messi. Commiserations to France – both teams played brilliantly. W”

England’s 1966 hat-trick hero Sir Geoff Hurst paid tribute to French ace Mbappe, 23, who equalled him by becoming the second man to score three goals in a World Cup final.

Sir Geoff, 81, said: “Many congratulations to Mbappe, whatever happens. I’ve had a great run!”

Messi became the first Argentinian to lift the World Cup since the late Diego Maradona in 1986 — joining him on the nation’s pedestal as a football god.

Five hundred fans gathered at the former home of Maradona — who died aged 60 in 2020 — to watch the win on a poolside big screen after its new owners opened the doors for an exclusive party.

Expat Argentines in Britain celebrated with an impromptu party outside the Moo Cantina gastropub in Pimlico, South London. Others gathered in London’s Piccadilly Circus waving their country’s flag.

More than 100,000 supporters packed the streets of Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires.

Footage showed them jumping and hugging as Gonzalo Montiel fired home the winning penalty.

TELLY football pundit Gary Neville sparked fury yesterday after he appeared to liken the rights of migrant workers in Qatar to the nurses’ strike in the UK over pay. The ex-England defender, 47, launched a tirade about the Government’s treatment of NHS staff on ITV ahead of the big match.Additional reporting: THOMAS GODFREY


By Nick Parker, at Lusail Stadium

I SAW Gazza’s tears at Italia 90 and Beckham sent off in 1998 and, after seven World Cups, thought I’d witnessed every possible drama.

Most veteran footie watchers like me were expecting Argentina and France to play a dull, tight and cagey duel. How wrong we were.

The teams gave us a game which outshone the fireworks on Lionel Messi lifting the trophy.

Yet with ten minutes left, France had not mustered a single shot on goal. I’d already written my story about triumphant Messi.

Included was the line: “French president Emmanuel Macron turned up with 5,000 fans — but it was a shame their team didn’t.”

Then, in the space of 90 seconds, Kylian Mbappe levelled it up with a penalty and brilliant volley. That meant extra time, and with it more expectations of safe play with no risks.

The teams were having none of it. Messi popped up with a scrambled third only for Mbappe to hit back with a second penalty.

Argentina prevailed in the ensuing penalty shoot-out in the greatest ever World Cup Final.

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