English Teacher Reflects On World Cup Final
After weeks of the 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup tournament, the final took place on Sunday, December 18th. The two teams playing were the 2019 reigning World Cup Champions France, versus the international powerhouse Argentina. Both teams are made up of great players, but the two players to really watch out for were soon to be veteran soccer legend Lionel Messi from Argentina, and the up and coming superstar Kylian Mbappe from France.
The high school has a teacher who had a lot of interest in the match. English teacher Jessica Coppola said, “As an Argentinian I always think that they’re going to make it far. I’m always blindsided when they lose. Going into it I had high hopes for them but then I also understand the level of skill that other teams have. I don’t follow it as closely as some of my other family members do but leading up to it I watched all the games. The fact that they made it to the end was almost enough for me because even if they didn’t win they’re still one of the best, if not THE best, in the world. And the Messi situation, I grew up knowing all the names, Maradona was my parents Messi, so once we had our Messi there was a different connection to the team, I think. Messi’s my age so it’s just a different dynamic because I grew up with him, so seeing him there felt like a relative made it to the World Cup. You don’t see a lot of Argentinians so it’s exciting.”
Lionel Messi scored a penalty kick in the 23rd minute to put Argentina ahead and then Angel Di Maria scored in the 36th minute. Argentina maintained this 2-0 lead over France for 80 minutes until Kylian Mbappe scored a penalty in the 80th minute, and then again in the 81st minute off of a set piece. Coppola said, “I truly just feel like they’re up 2-0. What could go wrong? And again there is a certain air of supremacy in the Argentinian world where they get to the point where they think ‘we’re good’ and they let their guard down. My husband started to relax and he said 'this is a great first half.' I told him not to celebrate because Argentina blew many leads. I’m half not trying to jinx it and half not trying to worry about them letting their guard down. I wasn’t totally confident that we had that game, even though it was a 2-0 lead.”
The game went into double overtime where the score remained a tie for the first 15 minutes. Lionel Messi scored another goal in the 108th minute but Kylian Mbappe was quick to answer in the 118th minute off of a penalty. Coppola said, “I almost stopped watching. I thought 'I don’t think I can emotionally take this anymore,’ but, on the other hand, I thought 'this is what the World Cup is supposed to be like. This is the best game you watch all year, the best game you watch all four years. This is incredible. It should be such a tight game; after all we are watching the best teams in the world.'”
Penalties took place after the whistle blew for the second round of overtime. During penalties Argentina outscored France 4-2. Coppola said, “I was sitting there and knew I wasn’t breathing. I thought if I did breathe I would mess him up because the penalties are so rough. There’s too many variables: the goalie could guess right and save the rest of the shots, the players could hit it over the crossbar or hit it wide; it's a level of skill and turns my stomach.”
At the end of the tournament Lionel Messi was awarded the Golden Ball, Kylian Mbappe won the Golden Boot, Enzo Fernandez won the Young Player of World Cup 2022, and Emiliano Martinez was awarded the Golden Glove. Coppola said, “All of the awards were well deserved. I think it makes sense that Mbappe got what he got, too. I don’t think it would have been fair to give them all to Argentina because you’re talking about the best in the world. I think seeing this created a hopefulness for Argentina. When you see these people who are Argentinian, and you watch them receive these incredible accolades, it makes you happy because it proves they could receive something as beautiful as this then they can accomplish so much more. Just seeing Messi get something was amazing because he’s every player's favorite player.”
The debate on who is the best player in the world — Messi or Ronaldo — came to a close for the majority of soccer fans after the World Cup. Coppola said, “I mean Ronaldo has said in the past that Messi is one of his favorite players. I think the debate is settled in that Messi won the World Cup, but I think that they have a respect for one another that no one even talks about, which makes me question if there really is any debate between the two of them at all, or if this is all just created by the fans. They’re both amazing players but to see Messi go out on top for Argentina really hit home, and amplified the love I already have for the country and the game."