Lionel Messi has his World Cup.
The living legend finally was able to hold that trophy aloft, after Argentina outlasted France in perhaps the best men’s World Cup Final in history. Messi himself scored twice, first on a penalty in the 28th minute to give Argentina a 1-0 lead, and then in extra time to put Argentina on the cusp of the World Cup. But Messi and Argentina would need to win in penalty kicks, thanks to an absolutely clinical effort from Kylian Mbappé on the other side of the pitch.
In the coming days and weeks much will be written, and said, about Messi’s legacy, as well as how Argentina managed to finally secure World Cup glory. And in those stories and discussions, one name should definitely be mentioned.
The keeper stood tall for Argentina when his team, and his nation, needed him most. For the match to even advance to penalty kicks, it required absolute heroism from Martínez in the closing minutes of extra time.
With the match knotted at three, and into stoppage time, France had one of their best scoring chances of the entire match. Defender Ibrahima Konaté, who had come on in the 113th minute to replace an injured Raphaël Varane, lofted a ball over the top from midfield. Randal Kolo Muani, another substitute, won the race to the ball with his fresh legs. He was through, with only Martínez standing between him and everlasting glory.
The keeper came off his line to press the issue, and preserved the tie for his team:
Up in the booth, Stu Holden on the FOX broadcast team warned us all to remember that moment, and remember that save.
He would be proven right minutes later.
Because that was not the only moment the keeper delivered for Argentina. After Mbappé and Messi opened the penalty shootout by each converting their chances, Kingsley Coman stepped to the spot to give France a 2-1 advantage.
But Martínez had other ideas:
The keeper guessed correctly, lunging to his right to turn Coman’s attempt aside. That gave Argentina the advantage, and they would capitalize, en route to their victory.
After the match, Martínez talked about the overwhelming emotions of the moment:
For his efforts all tournament long, Martinez was named the Golden Glove winner. Martínez turned in three clean sheets during the World Cup, and came up huge in the Final, with his save at the end of extra time, and his save early in the shootout to give Argentina the early advantage.
(He also celebrated his Golden Glove trophy in amusing fashion, but we’ll let you Google that).
Of course, the story is Messi. Messi’s legacy was secure entering the World Cup, regardless of result. But the images of him holding the trophy aloft, finally, will be cherished in Argentina for generations.
So too should the images of Martínez standing tall when his team, and his nation, needed him most.