Lionel Messi says he cannot wait to return to Argentina with the World Cup trophy.
Speaking to journalists after the final against France, Messi said he had “craved” this moment for so long.
“I knew God would bring this gift to me, I had the feeling that this World Cup was the one,” he said.
“It took so long, but here it is,” Messi added. "We suffered a lot, but we managed to do it. Can’t wait to be in Argentina to witness the insanity of this."
As the World Cup in Qatar ends, the countdown begins for the United States, Mexico and Canada — the co-hosts of the next World Cup in 2026.
A diplomatic delegation from the three countries was in Qatar for a handover ceremony ahead of the final between France and Argentina.
“We could not be more excited,” U.S. presidential delegate Linda Greenfield said. “We are already hard at work preparing for 2026 and we’re looking forward to welcoming fans from around the world.”
The tournament will be played in 11 U.S. cities, three in Mexico and two in Canada.
Lionel Messi has lifted the World Cup trophy, the biggest prize in soccer and the only one that had eluded him until now. The 35-year-old star, who was given a Qatari robe during the prize ceremony, celebrated on stage with his team mates as Argentina fans roared in the stands.
Lionel Messi has been named the best player of the World Cup in Qatar. Smiling, the Argentina great received the Golden Ball award in a post-match ceremony. Kylian Mbappé received the Golden Boot award as the top scorer in the tournament with eight goals, including three in the final. Argentina midfielder Enzo Fernandez, 21, was named the best young player of the tournament.
Argentina has won the World Cup for the third time after beating defending champion France in a penalty shootout. Substitute Gonzalo Montiel scored the decisive penalty after a dramatic match at Lusail Stadium north of Doha. Argentina won the shootout 4-2 after Kingsley Coman and Aurélien Tchouaméni missed their penalties for France.
The 2022 World Cup final will be decided on penalties. Argentina and France scored a goal each in extra time to make it 3-3.
It's 3-3. Kylian Mbappé has scored on a penalty kick with just a few minutes remaining of extra time. That's a hat-trick for the Frenchman.
Lionel Messi has scored his second goal of the match to put Argentina ahead 3-2. Messi scored at close range in the second period of extra time.
Argentina’s fans are trying to re-energize their team by singing their World Cup anthem “Muchachos” at high volume. The official attendance figure at Lusail Stadium is 88,966 and there is no doubt the Argentines are in the majority. But the French fans, quiet for most of the match when Argentina was ahead, are now making themselves heard as well.
The World Cup final is heading into extra time with Argentina and France level at 2-2. Two goals by Kylian Mbappé toward the end of the second half have put the defending champions back in the game.
Kylian Mbappé has made it 2-2. Just one minute after scoring on the penalty the France forward strikes again, on a volley.
Kylian Mbappé has scored on a penalty kick for France. Argentina is still in the lead 2-1.
The second half of the final at Lusail Stadium has begun.
Argentina has a 2-0 lead against France at half-time in the World Cup final after goals by Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria.
Messi scored on a 23rd-minute penalty kick after a foul on Di Maria. Thirteen minutes later Di Maria finished off a flowing team move involving a deft flick from Messi.
Messi now has 12 World Cup goals — the same as Brazil great Pelé — and is the first player to score in the group stage and every round of the knockout stage in a single edition of the tournament.
Angel Di Maria has made it 2-0 for Argentina in the World Cup final.
Lionel Messi has scored on a penalty to make it 1-0 for Argentina against France. It was Messi's 12th World Cup goal.
Lionel Messi is making a record 26th appearance at the World Cup, breaking a tie with Germany great Lothar Matthäus.
Messi’s games have been spread over five World Cups, starting in 2006. He has 11 goals in total, tied for sixth in the all-time list.
Messi has said this is likely to be his last World Cup.
The 2022 World Cup final between Argentina and defending champion France has started.
French President Emmanuel Macron has arrived at Lusail stadium for the World Cup final.
About 45 minutes before kickoff, Macron was chatting in the VVIP section with Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimović, who played for four seasons at Paris Saint-Germain, and France midfielder Paul Pogba, who has had to watch the entire World Cup from the sidelines due to an injury.
Pogba scored in the final when France won the 2018 World Cup but was not fit for selection at this tournament.
Macron also attended the final four years ago, when France beat Croatia 4-2, and later celebrated with players in the locker room.
The closing ceremony for the World Cup featured artists from around the world performing songs from the official soundtrack of the tournament in Qatar.
The performers at Lusail stadium included Nigerian singer Davido and Qatari-based songwriter Aisha, Congolese artist Gims and Puerto Rican reggaeton singer Ozuna.
The show, featuring fireworks and a light show, was meant to celebrate the world coming together for the monthlong tournament in the Gulf emirate.
Lionel Messi will lead an Argentina team containing Angel Di Maria, who starts for the first time since sustaining a foot injury against Poland in the final round of group games.
Di Maria takes the place of Leandro Paredes in midfield as Argentina again rolls out a 4-4-2 formation, with Messi one of the two forwards. Nicolas Tagliafico is preferred to Marcos Acuña at left back.
Kylian Mbappé starts up front for France alongside Olivier Giroud, who has overcome a minor knee injury. Dayot Upamecano and Adrien Rabiot come in for Ibrahima Konaté and Youssouf Fofana, respectively.
The lineups for the World Cup final:
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.
Blue, white and red face paint is being applied and Champagne is on ice as France collectively crosses fingers and toes in hopes that Les Bleus will win their third World Cup title by beating Argentina.
French TV carried live images of the France team leaving its hotel in Qatar en route for the championship match and of the players arriving at the stadium. Among them, a smiling Kylian Mbappé looked particularly relaxed.
In Paris, the Metro operator marked the momentous occasion by temporarily renaming one of its stations, changing the stop “Argentina” to “Argentina-France, let’s go les Bleus!"
Players past and present sent messages of support.
“Playing a World Cup final is a childhood dream. Let’s go and get this third star! Allez les Bleus!” Zinedine Zidane posted on Instagram.
Striker Karim Benzema, the Ballon d’Or winner who missed this World Cup with a torn left-thigh muscle, posted: “The hour is come. All together. Let’s go.”
World Cup final referee Szymon Marciniak is the first from Poland to handle the title game.
Marciniak, 41, missed working at the European Championship last year due to a heart problem.
“Only I and my team know how difficult of a time it was for me,” Marciniak said of his Tachycardia illness from which he has now recovered.
Marciniak has refereed both finalists already in Qatar. He handled France’s 2-1 win over Denmark in Group D and Argentina’s 2-1 win against Australia in the round of 16.
One of his assistants in the final is following in his father’s touchline steps. Tomasz Listkiewicz will hold a flag as an assistant running the line just as his father Michal did at the 1990 final in Rome, when defending champion Argentina lost 1-0 to West Germany.
The World Cup champions will earn $42 million in prize money for their soccer federation while the losing team in the final will get $30 million from a FIFA prize fund of $440 million.
Not all the money goes to players, but they are expected to get a good chunk of it. France players such as Kylian Mbappé are in line to be paid a bonus of 554,000 euros ($586,000) by their federation for winning the final, French sports daily L’Equipe reported.
Third-place team Croatia earned $27 million in prize money and Morocco, which ended up in fourth, will be paid $25 million.
Argentines woke up ready to watch the national team play for its third World Cup title amid a national feeling of unity and joy that is rare for a country that has been engulfed in an economic crisis for years and has one of the worst inflation rates in the world.
Argentina will face France in the final in Qatar and fan Guillermo Ortiz says “the whole city is dressed with the flag.”
Argentina last reached the World Cup final in 2014 but lost to Germany. Everyone in the country agrees the sense of anticipation and excitement for this year’s game is far higher than it ever was for that match in Brazil.
It's now or never for Lionel Messi.
The Argentina superstar’s once-in-a-generation career will be defined — for many — by whether he leads his country to the World Cup title.
Can he finally, at the age of 35, win soccer’s biggest prize to secure his place alongside Pelé and Diego Maradona in the pantheon of the game’s greatest ever players?
Standing in his way is France, the defending champion, and Kylian Mbappé, the player best positioned to take over from Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as soccer’s marquee name.
That’s if he hasn’t already.
Argentina arguably has the World Cup’s most fervent fans.
They are known for their rhythmical singing, incessant drumming and trance-like ferocity, and the country’s history of success at the World Cup is rivaled by few.
Argentina won the World Cup in 1978 and 1986 and lost in the final three times. This fervor will only grow as Lionel Messi leads Argentina against defending champion France in the final in Qatar.
Argentines take pride in the intensity and they are proud to be known for it around the world. They care deeply about soccer and they are among the best in the world at it.
AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports