Argentina Win The FIFA World Cup
Last Updated 23:49, Sunday 10 July 2022
There was a strong sense of agony in the Spain camp tonight, as the heavy favourites suffered a painful penalty defeat to the much-lower ranked Argentina in a largely-billed but rather disappointing end to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, reports Juan Román Riquelme. Long before the end of the 120 minutes, during which neither team was able to take control of the final, it was clear to most inside the stadium that we were unlikely to witness the deadlock be broken. And, to no surprise, a penalty shootout was required - perhaps the worst way to pick the winner of the world's premier international football competition. Nevertheless, tension was building around the stadium (Doha's 50,000 capacity Khalifa International Stadium) as Argentina's greatest ever player, and subsequent captain, of all time, Leo Messi, stepped up to take the first penalty. Messi calmly dispatched his kick, as did the next 3 spot-kick takers. In all truth, the first major talking point of the entire match was when Argentina full-back Federico Ramírez, a player ironically brought to Europe as a teenager by Spain manager Robert McLaren, missed his PK. Spanish supporters were promptly sent into ruptures...well, for all of 60 seconds, as Juan Luis Ferriol stepped up to give Spain the advantage - and missed. Fiorentina central midfielder Luis Tersic coolly picked his spot, and we were back to advantage: Argentina. And when Spanish defender Javier's penalty was brilliantly saved by Argentinean goalkeeper Toloza, substitute Hector Canteros was provided with the chance to send the World Cup back to Argentina for the first time in 36 years. Despite Canteros showing visible signs of nervousness as he placed the ball down on the spot, Spain 'keeper San Miguel was sent the wrong way, and the famous trophy returned to South America - a proud moment in the former Villarreal man's long career.
Having beaten them in the lead-up to the final, Spain are likely to overtake Brazil and move up to the number 1 spot in the world rankings, despite losing the final. Although they began the tournament as World #10, Argentina are likely to move considerably further up the rankings following their success. Argentina manager Mauricio Pochettino was full of praise for his newly-crowned champions after the match, declaring himself proud of his underdogs who had been largely written off as potential winners before the tournament had even began. "At times I must admit even I thought we didn't stand a chance tonight, but my boys have proved me wrong and I am truly proud of each and every one of them," exclaimed a beaming Pochettino in his post-match press conference.
The mood was all too different for Spain manager McLaren, and in an exclusive interview with Marca, the former Italy and Sweden boss revealed that he would be offering his resignation to the Spanish FA in the morning.
"Firstly, I would like to offer my congratulations to Mauricio, Argentina and their loyal fans on some spectacular achievements during these World Cup Finals, not just in the climax itself but in the last three weeks as a whole," explains McLaren. "I'm being perfectly honest when I say that the best team won today, and I wish them all the best in future pastures. However, for us it has not been an easy day, and having put much thought into it I would like to reveal that I will be offering the wonderful people at the Spanish FA my resignation first thing come tomorrow. It's been a great couple of years and I have thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it, but I myself feel like I have let a nation down today and feel as if someone else should be given the chance to take this group of players forward."
"I can only insist that I am not giving up on Spain. Why would I? - It's a job any football fan with sense would crave," laughs McLaren. "I am merely looking to continue my career elsewhere and would like to thank all of the board and of course the fans for their support over the twenty-something months I've been at the reigns here."
Barcelona boss Tito Vilanova is currently odds-on favourite to take over from the Scot as national team coach.
Meanwhile, Paul Lambert, the first manager to take Scotland to a major tournament since Craig Brown in 1998, has also resigned from his position after an abysmal performance by his team in the group stages, during which they failed to score a single goal. While Lambert was unavailable for interviewing, Scotland fans, collectively known as the Tartan Army, reflected on the team's games:
"Pish. Utter pish," declares one fan. "Don't get me wrong, we're thankful and a' that for what Paul's done for us since he took charge, but tae think some of us have waited all are lives to see us play in a World Cup and then for us to come here and watch us play so shambolically like we did is just...gutting." He sighs, "Qatar, eh? Not even letting us drink away our pain!"
Another disappointed fan said "Thank f*ck he's gone. Losing 3-0 to Australia, of all teams. AUSTRALIA!"
Lambert brought an end to his four and a half year spell as Scotland manager on Saturday
Despite the fact he is yet to resign from his current job, bookies and fans alike are already speculating that McLaren is on his way to becoming Lambert's successor, with some even suggesting that the Scotland job being available was a major factor in McLaren's decision to resign from Spain. Darren Ferguson, son of Sir Alex, is amongst the other favourites for the job, on a list that also includes current Scotland U19's gaffer Kirk Broadfoot.