Soccer is a funny sport.
We will suffer through watching hundreds of lousy games in our lives for the privilege of watching this:
Argentina-France, the greatest World Cup final in history.
Fans got what they came for -- Lionel Messi finally won the World Cup — but they also got the wildest final 40 minutes of a soccer match they'll ever see.
France's comeback wasn't the greatest reversal in World Cup history — West Germany came back from 2-0 down after eight minutes to beat Hungary, 3-2, in the final1954 -- but it was surely the most shocking.
I can't remember being more stunned by a turn of events than what happened in the 80th and 81st minutes when Les Bleus — Les Horribles for the first 70 minutes — tied the score at 2-2 with two Kylian Mbappe goals in just 93 seconds.
Overtime is nothing new to World Cup finals.
Three of the previous four finals went to overtime, producing late winners by Andres Iniesta for Spain in 2010 and Mario Goetze for Germany in 2014 and the most senseless act of violence in World Cup history in 2006 (Zinedine Zidane's head-butt on Marco Materazzi).
And suffering is nothing new to Argentina in World Cup finals.
It won at home in 1978, beating the Netherlands, 3-1, in overtime, but only after it conceded a tying goal in the 82nd minute.
It won at Mexico City's Azteca Stadium, in 1986, defeating West Germany, 3-2, but not before it blew a two-goal lead with a quarter of an hour to play.
In Lusail, everything was taken to a new level. Argentina blew not one but a second lead.
It regained command of the match in overtime, going ahead on Messi's second goal of the game in the 108th minute. But out of nowhere, France was back in the match 10 minutes later.
Mbappe's second goal from the penalty spot in the 118th minute completed the first hat trick in a World Cup final since Geoff Hurst for England in 1966, or as Scotsman Ally McCoist, an analyst on British network ITV's coverage of the match, quipped, the first "in a World Cup final with all three over the line.”
But the overtime drama wasn't over.
For decades to come, French fans will wonder what if — what if Argentine keeper Emiliano Martinez's outstretched foot had not reached the remarkable Randal Kolo Muani's breakaway attempt in the 123rd minute. Kolo Muani, who was playing third division soccer just three years ago, would have gone down as one of the great heroes in World Cup history.
Just like, decades later, Dutch fans still wonder what if Rob Rensenbrink's shot in stoppage time at the end of regulation had gone in instead of hitting the post in the 1978 final in Buenos Aires.
Yes, Argentina suffered, which made its triumph on penalty kicks all the greater.
A few other thoughts ...
• Coaching. It is hard to remember opposing coaches having such impacts on a final.
The late Diego Maradona scoffed at Lionel Scaloni's selection as Argentina national team coach, saying he "couldn't even direct traffic," but Scaloni's changes in formation and personnel from game to game were a big part of his team's success. His best move came in the final when he started Angel Di Maria, who was taken down for the opening penalty and scored Argentina's second goal.
France's Didier Deschamps had to field a patchwork lineup, losing four projected starters with injuries before or at the start of the tournament and dealing with a virus that swept the French camp. In the final, he did not wait until halftime to pull Olivier Giroud (who became France's all-time leading scoring during the tournament) and Ousmane Dembele for Marcus Thuram and Kolo Muani. The game changed late in the second half when Deschamps subbed Antoine Griezmann (France's best player throughout the tournament) and Theo Hernandez for Eduardo Camavinga and Kingsley Coman, who took command in midfield, allowing Thuram and Kolo Muani to run wild with Mbappe in attack.
• Refereeing. Like Messi, whose triumph was celebrated everywhere but in France, the Polish referee Szymon Marciniak received high marks for his work in the final everywhere, it seemed, but in the nation of the losing team.
In the previous 21 finals, there were six penalty kicks awarded. In Sunday's final, Marciniak awarded three penalty kicks, all justified. To his credit, VAR did not intervene once.
But that did not prevent the French sports daily L'Equipe, which gave Scaloni a grade of "8" (out of 10) and Deschamps a "7," from giving Marciniak a "2."
• A final note. I watched the final in Amsterdam, where I have been visiting my son, on BBC1.
During my three weeks in Doha and two weeks here, I certainly read the blistering criticism of the Fox coverage of the World Cup. And I was thinking of it when I watched the pre-game and post-game coverage of the final on BBC1. Before the game, I tweeted how blown away I was by the quality of the studio work and storytelling. All with a simple approach: honor the sport and its actors.
I thought about that a lot — honor the sport and its actors — when I read the controversy about Fox's decision to move the trophy ceremony to FS1 because of NFL commitments.
It's too bad FIFA threw in the 2026 World Cup broadcast rights to Fox because of its decision to move the 2022 finals from the summer to late fall. We might be done with Qatar, but as much as we might want to, we won't be done with Fox's World Cup coverage.