‘The agony and the ecstasy’: what the UK papers say about the World Cup final

The newspaper front pages declare it Lionel Messi’s final, as they unite in celebrating Argentina’s win over France

One man dominates the front – and back – pages of UK newspapers on Monday, after a “thrilling” World Cup final in Qatar.

Under the headline “Messi’s crowning glory”, the Guardian’s Barney Ronay calls it “the greatest Fifa World Cup final ever played”, and – more tellingly – a coronation for “the greatest footballer of the age”.

Guardian front page, Monday 19 December 2022: Workers who made jeans for Tesco ‘trapped in effective forced labour’ pic.twitter.com/bnm3TPUjMH

— The Guardian (@guardian) December 18, 2022

The Mail outlines “The agony… and the ecstasy”, as French star Kylian Mbappé is consoled by President Emmanuel Macron, and Lionel Messi celebrates Argentina’s win with his family.

Monday's Mail: Outrage At Neville's World Cup Rant Over UK Strikes #TomorrowsPapersToday #DailyMail #Mail pic.twitter.com/J0QAny7q7z

— Tomorrows Papers Today (@TmorrowsPapers) December 18, 2022

The Sun calls it the “greatest World Cup final … since 1966”, with a full-page image of Lionel Messi lifting the trophy and the headline “In the hand of God”.

On tomorrow's front page: Lionel Messi finally got his hands on the World Cup as Argentina beat France after a thrilling final in Qatar pic.twitter.com/xAHIafnhCX

— The Sun (@TheSun) December 18, 2022

The back page of the Express reports Messi as saying, “that his career is now complete after Argentina edged out France in a thrilling World Cup final penalty shoot-out.”

Above the banner, “Dream world”, the paper carries an image of the Argentinian star being carried on the shoulders of his teammates.

Monday’s EXPRESS Sport: “Dream World” #TomorrowsPapersToday pic.twitter.com/L7y0WPSkMe

— Allie Hodgkins-Brown (@AllieHBNews) December 18, 2022

The Metro calls it the “Crowning glory”, and despite writing that Qatar was almost certainly his “last tilt at World Cup glory”, the paper quotes Messi as saying “I’m not going to retire from the national team … I want to keep playing.” Its front page image carries the headline: “Mess hysteria”.

Monday’s METRO Sport: “Crowning Glory” #TomorrowsPapersToday pic.twitter.com/MpyiGkLIjA

— Allie Hodgkins-Brown (@AllieHBNews) December 18, 2022

The Mirror says, “The GOAT… that’s Messi”. The paper writes that Messi “insisted he will not retire”, and quotes him as saying, “I knew that God was going to give me the World Cup. I was sure”.

Monday’s MIRROR Sport: “The Goat …That’s Messi & The Final” #TomorrowsPapersToday pic.twitter.com/leUlTKcXTO

— Allie Hodgkins-Brown (@AllieHBNews) December 18, 2022

The Telegraph’s back page carries another full-page image of Messi, with the simple headline, “Miraculous. Magical. Messi.”

Monday’s TELEGRAPH Sport: “Miraculous. Magical. Messi.” #TomorrowsPapersToday pic.twitter.com/b2w3RIjJog

— Allie Hodgkins-Brown (@AllieHBNews) December 18, 2022

The i calls Messi the “greatest of all time”. The paper says he has now joined the “ranks of Pelé and Maradona as he guides Argentina to World Cup glory in the most gripping final in history”.

Monday’s i Sport: “Greatest of all time” #TomorrowsPapersToday pic.twitter.com/GAdMupTIzx

— Allie Hodgkins-Brown (@AllieHBNews) December 18, 2022

Finally, the Times carries a simple assessment of what is sure to be a historic night in footballing history: “The greatest”.

Monday’s TIMES Sport: “The greatest” #TomorrowsPapersToday pic.twitter.com/ezAipWtsqj

— Allie Hodgkins-Brown (@AllieHBNews) December 18, 2022


Jonathan Yerushalmy

The GuardianTramp

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