Sunday’s 2022 FIFA World Cup final was one of the most thrilling games in the tournament’s history, with Argentina winning the trophy on penalty kicks (4-2) after finishing 120-plus minutes of regular and extra time tied at 3-3.
In Buenos Aires, hundreds of thousands of fans celebrated in the streets, while in Paris hooligans were met with police and tear gas after rioting broke out among unruly French supporters.
In Albuquerque, celebrations and watch parties were much calmer in comparison, but the excitement of the world’s most popular game was still in the air. Salt Yard East opened its doors at 8 a.m. Sunday morning, where the final was played live on a big screen and other small TVs inside the bar. Some fans were donning Lionel Messi jerseys while several others were sporting New Mexico United gear.
Nolan McKeever, who was one of the fans wearing a Messi jersey, was at Salt Yard East with a few friends supporting Argentina.
“I just wanted to come out with some friends and not have to sit at my couch at home. And this a great way to do that,” McKeever said.
McKeever’s friend, Kenny Levandoski, said he was also an Argentina and Messi supporter. When asked why he was up so early watching the game with friends, Levandoski replied, “Huge soccer fan,” and that he used to play.
Most of the fans at Salt Yard East were Argentina supporters, but there were a few Les Bleus supporters who could be heard cheering in between the roars and cries of customers rooting for the blue and white.
Argentina took the early lead, with Messi scoring on a penalty 26 minutes in and Angel Di Maria placing one in the back of the net 10 minutes later. Kylian Mbappe helped France to even the score in the second half with an 80th minute penalty and then a powerful strike that went past the hands of Emiliano Martinez just a minute later.
The excitement only increased in extra time when Messi scored at 108 minutes. The ball landed at his feet after goalkeeper Hugo Lloris blocked a shot by Lautaro Martinez, who was barely onside when he received the ball. French defender Dayot Upamecano attempted to clear the ball after Messi’s shot, but it had already crossed the line, giving Argentina the 3-2 advantage.
The game wasn’t over, though. Mbappe rocketed a shot in from outside the box that hit off the arm of Argentina defender Gonzalo Montiel, who was inside the penalty area. The referee immediately pointed to the spot, leading to Mbappe’s third goal and a tie game that would have to be resolved in a penalty shootout.
Both Mbappe and Messi scored one each in the first penalty kicks of the shootout, but then France’s Kingsley Coman missed, followed by a goal for Argentina’s Paulo Dybala. Another miss by France and another goal by Argentina gave the blue and white a 3-1 advantage before the last two penalties were taken.
Randal Kolo Muani was able to slip his shot past Argentina’s keeper before all the pressure was on Montiel, who was called for the handball that led to France tying the game up in extra time. Montiel redeemed himself and made the shot, helping Argentina claim victory and earn its third World Cup title.
After Montiel’s goal, the crowd roared to life inside Salt Yard East.
— Scott Albright (@ScottMAlbright) December 18, 2022
Some watch parties were more exciting than others
Excitement for the World Cup seemed to peter out after the U.S. was eliminated 3-1 by the Netherlands in the Round of 16. Prior to their loss, U.S. fans could be seen packing the watch parties at Sandia Resort & Casino and Salt Yard East.
Downtown, at Civic Plaza, only a handful of soccer fans could be seen watching the big screen as France took on England in the Dec. 1 quarter-final match. Marie Elsner, co-owner of Annie’s Soup Kitchen, was one of those fans.
“Is this a joke?” she asked of the watch party, as at first, she was the only person in front of the screen at Civic Plaza. The diehard France supporter said she watched her team’s semifinal against Morocco at Uptown Sports Bar, where there was a larger crowd. When talking about the final she said, “I don’t know if I will need champagne or tissues on Sunday.”
Unfortunately for Elsner, it was the tissue box she was reaching for on Sunday and not the champagne bottle. It may be a moment she wants to forget, but Argentina fans will be reminding everyone of their win for the next four years, until the next FIFA World Cup,
The 2026 FIFA World Cup will be played in the United States, Mexico and Canada, with host cities already announced. Games will be played in Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Guadalajara, Houston, Kansas City (Missouri), Los Angeles, Mexico City, Miami, Monterrey (Mexico), New York/New Jersey, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto and Vancouver.
Tickets are expected to go on sale sometime in 2025 or 2026. Tickets for the 2022 World Cup cost anywhere from $11 for a group stage match to $1,600 for a seat at the final.