It was - as promised - the best WC ever.

Published: Monday, 19 December 2022
Explosive. Exhilarating. Extra-ordinary. And that was just Messi. What a final. It wasn’t just the best ever, it was close to being the best game of football I’ve ever seen. In fact - thinking about it as I write - it probably was. It had everything.

So let’s start there. It was billed as the ultimate showdown between Messi and Mbappe. To some extent that proved to be the case and on a personal level I made it a draw. Mbappe couldn’t have done anymore. Nor could Messi. His team-mates and those fantastic supporters got him and their country over the line. They had it won twice - at 2-0 and 3-2 - before they finally nailed it in the shoot out.

The two main characters were flawless. Neither flinched. Neither gave an inch. Both should consider it to be their best yet. And I say that of Messi having been privileged to have seen some of his world class performances in the flesh before last night. At his mesmerising best he’s sensational and now he’s gone and landed the last piece in the jig-saw. With his performance, and by getting his hands on the WC, he’s elevated himself into the elite. He now sits with the other giants - Pele, Maradona and Ronaldo, who Kaka told a beINSPORTS audience was viewed as ‘just another fat bloke walking the streets’ in Brazil.  😂😂. Well that’s not the case in the rest of the world Ricky 😂.

There is time for Mbappe to join the others. Although he was a WC winner four years ago - there’s a lot more for him to achieve before he can be mentioned in the same breath as Messi and co.

As for the debate about the modern-day GOAT. I’ve always said I preferred Cristiano, but his antics over the past few months have turned me right off. He must’ve hated everything about Sunday’s final. But let’s not dwell on him - let’s applaud Messi and say the debate will rage forever because there is no definitive answer.

I was as pleased for those magnificent Argentinian fans as I was Messi. They embraced this WC. They came in their thousands and had fun.

And we shouldn’t forget the ref - Szymon Marciniak. I watched the game with Mike Dean, who post match described Marciniak’s performance as ‘the best ever’ in a big game final. I couldn’t agree more.

Before we talk about VAR and the refereeing in general - let’s also pay tribute to France. They too were magnificent. After a sluggish 40 mins, Deschamps was brave enough to make changes and my word - what an impact those changes had. Could you imagine Gareth Southgate affecting a game like that? No. Nor me. I for one am disappointed he’s decided to stay on.

So what about the refs? Of course there were moments and the odd few decisions that had us all scratching our heads - but, on the whole, I thought they were terrific. As the regular readers know, I’ve never been a fan of technology, but it’s not going away so all I’ve ever asked is that we use it correctly. Again - a heavy majority of decisions were correct.

VAR wasn’t intrusive in the way it has been in the PL. They encouraged the refs to make the big decisions. According to Dean that’s one change we’re doing to see in the PL now we’re finally shot of Mike Riley - and Howard Webb is in charge. He’s going to encourage refs - and VAR - to stay with the original decisions. Our game will be better for it. It will encourage refs to be brave again. Oh - Dean also told me that it won’t be long before we’ll all be able to hear the exchanges at the monitor. That too will be a huge leap forward.

As for the tournament in general. It was as promised. No-one was left out. Everyone was welcome - whatever their colour, gender or allegiance. Arrests were a record low. There were no drug-fuelled drunken rampages like we saw in London before the Euro 2000 final. The streets were safe and enjoyable. The organisers deserve great credit for pulling it off.

Sadly some - like the Mail’s quartet of moaning Minnie’s - including moaner-in-chief Ian Herbert - left as they‘d arrived - desperately finding something to complain about. They tried to ruin it. They failed. They were in a sad minority. Why did they come? They actually failed with every objective they had. They must’ve been exhausted after trying so hard. It certainly looked that way in their drab, dull, daily podcasts. Leave the broadcasting to experts eh lads?  

They weren’t totally alone. A mate, who I had staying with me, bumped into a friend now working for the BBC. He told him they weren’t allowed to express their real opinions about the tournament on air. They weren’t allowed to compliment atmosphere, stadia or Qatar itself. What a sad state of affairs. For the record - he said he thought it had been brilliant.

And I saw a former colleague complaining on Facebook about having to be in Qatar because it ‘mixed‘ his morals. I wondered what morals they were. Were they the same morals that led to him being eased out of his last job for sleeping with most of the women he hired to work for him in the Mayfair flats he took them too? Sad. Very very sad. Enjoy the flight home lads.