Lionel Messi finally won the World Cup in one of the most dramatic football finals in the history of the game with the help of a squad capable of supporting their star player.
In 2014 when Argentina met Germany in the final, then-manager Alejandro Sabella’s men were completely outplayed during the 1-0 loss and the footballing fraternity wondered if the greatest player of his generation will ever get his redemption arc.
But Lionel Scaloni went to work and built a side capable of both taking advantage of Messi’s otherworldly talent and helping overcome his minute deficiencies.
His reworked team, which consists of younger players who can outrun the opposition, not only brought Messi his first international trophy, the 2021 Copa America but the CONMEBOL–UEFA Cup of Champions and finally the coveted World Cup.
Here are the players who helped Argentina achieve their fate.
Emiliano Martinez (GK):
Martinez is a perfect example of Scaloni’s plans.
After bouncing around England with several loan deals with clubs, the 30-year-old reinvented himself at Arsenal before sealing a transfer to Aston Villa as their first-choice keeper.
Scaloni brought him out from the cold and handed him his senior team debut and he paid off his coach’s faith with stellar performances in Copa America, where he kept a clean sheet in the final.
During the 2022 FIFA World Cup, he saved spot kicks during the shootout against the Netherlands to help his side reach the semifinals.
He repeated his heroics in the final as well, making a crucial save in the dying stages to deny Randal Kolo Muani a surefire goal.
Martinez then saved Kingsley Koman’s penalty and forced Aurelien Tchouameni to shoot wide to help his side win another trophy.
Nicolás Tagliafico (LB):
The 30-year-old left-back plays for Lyon in Ligue 1 after making a name for himself at Ajax.
He was also part of the 2021 Copa America winning side and did his job commendably in the world cup final while guarding Ousmane Dembele before he was substituted.
Nicolás Otamendi (CB):
Otamendi plays as a centre-back for the Portuguese club Benfica.
Now 34 years of age, he has been a regular international for his side since 2009. At the club level, he has won several titles with Manchester City.
He did not have the greatest of the games in the final but managed to end up on the right side of history.
Cristian Romero (CB):
Tottenham’s Romero has quickly become a mainstay under Scaloni after helping his side lift the Copa America in 2021.
At just 24 years of age, he will likely be a part of the next World Cup as well.
Nahuel Molina (RB):
Atletico Madrid’s Molina managed to keep Kylian Mbappe quiet for a significant amount of time before being hooked in favour of Gonzalo Montiel.
He scored his first world cup goal against the Netherlands.
The 24-year-old will, again, be playing for Argentina for a long time if all goes well.
Alexis Mac Allister (LM):
Brighton and Hove Albion’s Mac Allister put a real shift in the world cup final, often making lung-busting runs at both ends of the field to keep his side in the contest.
The 23-year-old was replaced before penalties but will remain a valuable asset for years to come.
He will also likely draw the attention of bigger clubs with Liverpool one of the interested parties.
Enzo Fernández (CM):
Voted the “Best Young Player of the Tournament” the Benfica midfielder will likely be on the move to a bigger club in the future.
The 21-year-old, named after Enzo Francescoli, played the full 2 hours of the final.
Rodrigo De Paul (RM):
Often referred to as “Lionel Messi’s bodyguard” the Atletico Madrid man brings tenacity to this Argentina side which was on full display against the French in the final.
The 28-year-old was hooked in the extra time in favour of Leandro Paredes as penalties drew near.
Ángel Di María (LW):
One of the most underrated attacking players of his generation, Di Maria continued his streak of scoring in the finals by adding his team’s second goal against France.
The 34-year-old added the World Cup medal to his Copa America and the 2008 Olympics gold after the win.
Julian Alvarez (CF):
Picked ahead of Lautaro Martinez, Alvarez earned his manager’s faith by becoming his team’s workhorse in the attacking half.
The 21-year-old was playing just his first World Cup and ended up with 4 goals and a winner’s medal.
Manchester City, his club, will likely reap the rewards as well, partnering him with Erling Haaland in what could be one of the most destructive pairings in world football.
Lionel Messi (RW):
Messi added the only trophy missing from his cabinet delivering a third World Cup trophy to Argentina, their first since 1986.
The PSG man ended the tournament with the “Golden Ball” awarded to the best player after scoring six goals and notching three assists becoming the first person to have won the honour twice.
Scaloni has not turned down the idea of him staying with Argentina for the 2026 World Cup.