Atlanta United midfielder Thiago Almada becomes the first MLS player to win the World Cup after Argentina triumphed over France in a dramatic penalty shootout finale in Qatar
Argentina midfielder Thiago Almada of Atlanta United became the first MLS player to win the World Cup.
Argentina triumphed over France on penalties in the final of soccer’s greatest tournament after Kylian Mbappe’s hat-trick cancelled out a brace from Lionel Messi and Angel di Maria’s strike.
The victory not only marked a milestone for star Messi, who finally got his hands on the trophy that evaded him so far throughout his glittering career, but also for soccer in the US.
Thiago Almada of Atlanta United became the first MLS player to win the World Cup
Argentina triumphed over France on penalties in the final of soccer’s greatest tournament
With the victory, Almada became the first player to play in MLS to win the World Cup with his country.
The 21-year-old did not get a lot of playing time in Qatar, logging just six minutes in total but he still celebrated with his medal following the game.
He was substituted onto the pitch at the 83rd of Argentina’s 2-0 win over Poland in the final game of the group stage – replacing Alexis Mac Allister.
Almada is the youngest player on Argentina’s roster, born just months after the next youngest player – midfielder Enzo Fernandez.
The 21-year-old did not get a lot of playing time in Qatar but still celebrated his nation’s win
With Argentina’s match against Croatia, Almada became the second active MLS player in history to be on the roster in a World Cup semifinal, after Julio Cesar played in 2014 while on loan at Toronto FC.
This year, a total of 36 MLS players made World Cup rosters for their countries, according to the club. That includes Argentina, Australia, Cameroon, Canada, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Poland, Switzerland, the United States, Uruguay, and Wales.
A total of nine World Cup champions have played in MLS in the past – including Brazil’s Kaka, Denilson, and Kleberson, France’s Thierry Henry and Blaise Matuidi, Germany’s Bastian Schweinsteiger, Italy’s Andrea Pirlo and Alessandro Nesta, and Spain’s David Villa.
Messi scored his first from the penalty spot to give Argentina a 1-0 lead. Angel di Maria made it 2-0 in the first half and Argentina looked set for a smooth victory when he rounded off a sweeping passing move with a clinical finish.
Lionel Messi put Argentina ahead as they took advantage of a sloppy start from France
The PSG star thought he had won it in extra time as he put Argentina 3-2 up in extra time
Kylian Mbappe levelled from the spot with his second penalty to send the final to a shootout
But with 10 minutes left on the clock, France striker Kylian Mbappe – Messi’s teammate at French side PSG – turned the game on its head with two goals in two minutes, including one from the penalty spot himself.
That took the game to extra time and for a moment, it felt like momentum had slipped away from Argentina.
Messi struck again, from close range, in the 108th minute but one final twist was still to come.
Mbappe got his hat-trick after a handball in the France penalty area and the game went down to a shootout.