Argentina were made to suffer before landing their first World Cup title in 36 years, having twice squandered a lead, including in extra-time before edging past defending champions France 4-2 on penalties in the final on Sunday.
“It was a game where we suffered,” said Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, who saved one penalty in the shootout on Sunday but had also saved two more spot kicks in their quarter-final against Netherlands.
On a night of high drama and fluctuating fortunes, Argentina squandered a 2-0 lead in regular time before going back in front in extra-time with Lionel Messi’s second goal. But then Kylian Mbappe completed his hat-trick to level 3-3 in the 118th minute with France’s second penalty that forced the shootout.
“Two crappy shots and they (France) levelled. They give them another penalty, they scored. Thank God later I did my thing, what I dreamed of,” Martinez said.
“There could not have been a World Cup that I have dreamed of like this. I was calm during the penalties.”
For Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni it was a nail-biting finish to a turbulent tournament and he could not hold back his tears following the final whistle.
“I cannot believe that we have suffered so much in a perfect game. Unbelievable, but this team responds to everything,” Scaloni said.
“I am proud of the work they did. It is an exciting group. With the blows we received today, with the draws, this makes you emotional. I want to tell people to enjoy, it’s a historic moment for our country.
“We who live for this and who have been through the good and the bad are used to these things… Above all it is an incredible enjoyment. Being at the top as we are now is something unique.”
It was the third world title for Argentina and the first since the late Diego Maradona won the trophy almost single-handedly in 1986.
For Argentina players and captain Messi, who netted twice in the 120 minutes before also scoring in the shootout, it was the biggest title of their careers.
“It is a moment that I will never erase in my life,” Enzo Fernandez, who won the Young Player award, said. “Having the chance to win the World Cup with my country is priceless. Let’s take the cup and celebrate together.”
Messi’s Argentine team had made the final as recently as 2014 but on that occasion they finished second best to Germany.
“I’ll never forget it. We had to suffer but we deserved to win” said Argentina defender Rodrigo De Paul. “We’ve beaten the last champions, it’s a joy I cannot put into words.
“I’m proud of being born in Argentina and today we are on top of the world.”