The latest installment in the history of the FIFA World Cup was completed on Sunday night, and the curtain was brought down in poetic fashion. Lionel Messi, whose international career has been dogged with heartbreak, finally solidified his status as the greatest player of all time. He scored two goals for Argentina in an epic final against France – who twice came back from the dead courtesy of a Kylian Mbappe hat trick – with La Albiceleste eventually triumphing via the dreaded penalty shoot-out.
Online bookmakers like Bovada, where you can find soccer bets odds and offers, had made Lionel Scaloni’s side the second favourites in the build-up to Qatar. But that couldn’t have looked further from the truth, as they were stunned by Saudi Arabia in their opening game. But Messi and co. went on to reel off five consecutive wins to seal their place in the Lusail Iconic Stadium showpiece. And once they were there, they wouldn’t disappoint.
The Argentinians were by far the better side throughout and raced into a two-goal lead courtesy of the brilliant Messi and Angel Di Maria. With France looking down and out, however, Kylian Mbappe suddenly burst into life. He scored two goals in just 90 seconds to level the scores and send the tie to extra time.
Messi thought he gave his nation the victory he so desperately craved when he bundled home in the 108th minute. France would come roaring back once again, however, with Mbappe levelling from the spot to complete his hat trick in the 117th minute and send the tie to penalties. Emiliano Martinez, the current Aston Villa, and former Rotherham United and Sheffield Wednesday loanee would go on to become the hero.
The 2022 FIFA World Cup will go down in history as Messi’s World Cup and the Argentine magician’s crowning moment. But how did West Ham United’s stars fare?
Alphonse Areola – France – Runner-up
While Messi was enjoying the greatest moment of his illustrious career, Hammers number one Alphonse Areola was enduring one of his most heartbreaking evenings as his France side, unfortunately, came out second best. The former Paris Saint-Germain shot-stopper didn’t feature in Qatar, instead playing second fiddle to number one and captain Hugo Lloris.
With Spurs keeper Lloris now 35 years of age, the door may be opening for a new French number one. One would imagine that Areola is in the prime position to grab the jersey and make it his own, however, he may face a battle with AC Milan shot-stopper Mike Maignan, the current Italian champion missed the flight to the Arabian Gulf State due to a calf injury, but one would imagine he will be back to stake his claim in the new year.
Nayef Aguerd – Morocco – Fourth Place
Nayef Aguerd hasn’t really had a chance to shine at the London Stadium. He arrived from French club Rennes in the summer for a fee of £30m however, has featured just once this term due to an ankle injury.
In Qatar however, the central defender was one of the stars of the show for Morocco as the Atlas Lions became the first African nation in history to reach the semi-finals of the FIFA World Cup. Aguerd played every minute of the group stages, forming a formidable partnership alongside former Premier League star and Moroccan captain Romain Saïss. The duo conceded just one goal throughout their first four games together, however, the Hammers man would hobble off with an injury in the second-round victory over Spain and wouldn’t feature again.
Declan Rice – England – Quarter Finals
If you are English, there was a sense of what could have been when watching Sunday’s World Cup final. Declan Rice will most definitely be feeling that way. The West Ham captain featured in all of England’s games in Qatar, striking up an impressive midfield partnership with the immensely talented Jude Bellingham.
As we all know, however, it would go on to end in heartbreak as England bowed out in the quarter-finals. Harry Kane would miss a late penalty which ensured it was France that progressed to the last four at the Three Lions’ expense, despite Gareth Southgate’s side dominating for long periods. Rice is still just 23 however, and he will be ready to go again in four years’ time.
Lucas Paqueta – Brazil – Quarter Finals
Brazil headed to Qatar as the favourites to lift the FIFA World Cup trophy for the sixth time. They however, lost on penalties to knockout specialists Croatia in the quarter-finals. Lucas Paqueta was one of the Selecao’s better performers at the tournament.
He started all but one of their games and was on the scoresheet in the second-round victory over South Korea. He also provided the assist for Neymar’s magical goal against the Croats in the last eight.
Thilo Kehrer – Germany – Group Stage
No team disappointed more at the World Cup than the Germans. They exited at the group stages for the second consecutive tournament after Japan stunned both them and Spain, defeating both European giants to top a difficult-looking Group E. Thilo Kehrer featured just once, starting in the 1-1 draw with Spain.