Argentina suffered before clinching its first World Cup title in 36 years after squandering a lead twice, including in extra time before passing defending champions France 4-2 on penalties in the final on Sunday.
“It was a game in which we suffered,” said Argentinian goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, who saved a penalty in Sunday’s shootout, but had also saved two more in their quarter-final against the Netherlands.
On a night of much drama and fluctuating fortunes, Argentina squandered a 2-0 lead in regulation time before taking the lead again in extra time with Lionel Messi’s second goal. But then Kylian Mbappe completed his hat-trick to make it 3-3 in the 118th minute with France’s second penalty kick that forced the shootout.
“Two lousy shots and they (France) leveled. They gave them another penalty, they scored. Thank God I later did my thing, which I dreamed of,” said Martinez.
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“There couldn’t have been a World Cup that I dreamed of so much. I was calm during the penalties.”
It was a blood-curdling end to a turbulent tournament for Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni and he couldn’t hold back the tears after the final whistle.
“I can’t believe we suffered so much in a perfect game. Unbelievable, but this team reacts to everything,” said Scaloni.
“I am proud of the work they have done. It’s an exciting group. With the blows we got today, with the draws, this makes you emotional. I want to tell people to enjoy, it’s a historic moment for our country.
“We who live for this and who have experienced the good and the bad are used to these things… Above all, it is an incredible pleasure. Being at the top as we are now is something unique.”
It was Argentina’s third world title and first since the late Diego Maradona won the trophy almost single-handedly in 1986.
For Argentina players and captain Messi, who scored twice in the 120 minutes before also scoring in the shootout, it was the biggest title of their career.
“It’s a moment I will never erase from my life,” said Young Player Award winner Enzo Fernandez. “Having the chance to win the World Cup with my country is priceless. Let’s take the cup and celebrate together.”
Messi’s Argentina team had only made it to the final in 2014, but on that occasion they finished second to Germany.
“I’ll never forget it. We had to suffer, but we deserved to win,” said Argentine defender Rodrigo De Paul. “We beat the last champions, it’s a joy I can’t put into words.
“I am proud to have been born in Argentina and today we are on top of the world.”