This World Cup final was a game that seemed to defy comprehension, conventions and any attempt to describe it.
How could anything capture the sound in the stadium when Lionel Messi lifted the World Cup trophy? Or the calmness with which Kylian Mbappé slotted a penalty to equalize in extra time?
It was – as the world seemed to settle on in an attempt to sum it all up – simply the greatest final ever.
“Best World Cup Final ever,” Usain Bolt tweeted alongside pictures of himself in an Argentina jersey at Lusail Stadium.
“We’re breathless up here. It was just an unbelievable final. It was a pleasure to be here. I’ve never seen anything like it and I don’t think I’ll ever see anything like it again. It was staggering,” former England international Alan Shearer said on the BBC.
Messi’s penalty and Ángel Di María’s first-half goal looked to have settled the tie in normal time, but Mbappé scored two late goals – one from the penalty spot – in as many minutes to draw France level and force extra time.
With both sides’ feeling the effects of the scintillating finale, Messi looked to have scored a winner in the 108th minute in what would have been a Hollywood ending.
“My god, #FIFAWorldCup. This game is a gorgeous, evil curse. I love it so much make it stop,” actor Ryan Reynolds tweeted just after Messi’s goal made it 3-2 to Argentina in extra time.
But Mbappé, yet again, replied with an equalizer from the spot to take the game to penalties.
“Ok if I have a heart attack it’s cause I’m watching this #FIFAWorldCup,” Serena Williams tweeted.
“What a game man. If someone still doesn’t think this is the best sport ever…,” former Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas tweeted as the players lined up to take penalties.
France’s Kingsley Coman saw his spot kick saved by Emiliano Martínez, who was named as the tournament’s best goalkeeper, and Aurélien Tchouaméni pulled his effort wide before Gonzalo Montiel secured Argentina’s third World Cup title and a first since 1986.
Telemundo’s commentator Andrés Cantor simply repeated: “Argentina es campeón del mundo” – Argentina is world champion – as he called the winning moment, hugging his co-commentator Claudio Borghi and his voice cracking with emotion.
Photos showed the streets of Buenos Aires awash with blue and white as people poured out to celebrate.
Argentina’s President Alberto Fernández tweeted: “Thanks to the players and coaching team. They are the example that we should not give up. That we have great people and a great future.”
Even Brazil, La Albiceleste’s great rival, sent congratulations.
“Happy with the victory of the Argentine neighbours. Great game from Messi, who deserved this a lot, and Di Maria. Congratulations to the players, the Argentina coaching staff and my friend @alferdez,” Brazil’s President Lula da Silva tweeted alongside an emoji of the Argentinian flag.
Former England striker Michael Owen tweeted: “Congratulations Argentina. Incredible game. Surely the best ever final? Messi puts the top hat on an unbelievable career but spare a thought Mbappe, a hat trick in a World Cup final yet goes home empty handed.”
French President Emmanuel Macron, who had travelled to Qatar for the final, tweeted: “Les Bleus made us dream.”
He appeared on the pitch afterwards and comforted Mbappé as the 23-year-old stared blankly into the night.
France’s Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne also tweeted, saying: “Thank you Les Bleus! We have trembled with you all, just until the end. Thank you for this journey, thank you for making us dream, thank you for this exceptional game.”
Xiaofei Xu contributed to this report.