There is something so special about football commentary.
Sure, all sports have their commentators, and it does take a particular skill to narrate the plotlines and scenes of any game or match. But any fan of the beautiful game can recognize that the commentary in football can change an entire memory of a goal, a save, or a World Cup win, in such a way that is incomparable to any other sport.
Peter Drury, one of the most well-known football commentators, has done precisely this in last night’s dramatic World Cup final.
Here are six quotes from last night’s game that encapsulated and immortalized one of the greatest matches of all time, as well as the greatest player of all time.
“Lionel Messi stares up at his final peak, Kylian Mbappe prowls in the foothills of greatness.”
In Drury’s opening line, he is referencing Messi’s “final peak” — his last journey to a World Cup trophy.
Meanwhile, Mbappe is in the “foothills of greatness” — about to climb the same mountain as the man over 11 years his senior, yet unlike Messi, his career is still just beginning.
Before the match had even started, Peter Drury was already building the story in the most poetic way possible. Here, he cites the players of the match, as though he knew that we were about to witness one of the greatest football matches of all time, the storyline defined by these two extraordinary characters.
“A breath. A heartbeat. And Messi!”
There is nothing quite like being given a penalty, especially on the stage of the World Cup final.
As for Messi’s case last night, when he lined up to take the penalty to take the lead, he had the weight of a nation on his shoulders. Before Messi ran up to the ball, “A breath. A heartbeat.” — Peter Drury’s words capture the weight and tension of that feeling in the span of four words.
And once he scores, he yells his name, “Messi!” before pausing to let anyone watching from home hear the screams of thousands of Argentinian fans in Lusail Stadium.
“Mbappe…Into the galaxy of greats!”
As Mbappe stares at the ball before he takes his penalty shot to cut down Argentina’s lead from two to one, Peter Drury announces his name and nothing more. “Mbappe,” he says before a moment of silence, as though he himself too is watching from the edge of his seat.
And when the 23-year-old makes the shot, his sixth goal of the tournament, he yells, “Into the galaxy of greats!“
After another pause to let the team — the nation — enjoy their moment, he finishes, “…and France, alive again.”
Here, Drury captures what Mbappe has done for his team. He scored all of France’s three goals last night, plus his successful shot in the penalty shootout.
He is the deserving winner of the Golden Boot award.
“One feels for Mbappe, who scored a World Cup final hat-trick and lost. How can that be?”
And yet, the efforts of one young man were not enough for France to win back-to-back World Cup trophies.
When Peter Drury asks his question to the fans watching from home, certainly, he must know that millions will resonate.
With the performance Mbappe pulled off — all his goals brought France back alive from the dead and he became only the second man to score a hat-trick at a World Cup final — even as all the Argentina fans were celebrating, we all had to stop and ask ourselves the same thing.
“How can that be?”
“Scaloni will be fated, Messi will be sainted.”
As Argentina emerged as the champions of the world after what felt like an indescribable match, Peter Drury has the words to immortalize their victory. And they ring exactly like a poem (literally).
“36 years since Maradona and Mexico
Here, finally, is a nation’s new throng of immortals
Scaloni will be fated, Messi will be sainted
France this time denied, defied.”
As the world watches both the celebrations and the tears on the pitch, Drury somehow captures all of it, including the history behind the victory.
Argentina won their last World Cup title in 1986 with a team led by Diego Maradona — a player seen more like a god throughout their country. Now, this team led by Lionel Messi, they are Argentina’s “new throng of immortals.”
“The greatest player of his age finally has the greatest accolade football can afford him at the end of one of the greatest football matches ever played.”
Now, there is not much left to be said about the great Lionel Messi. After years of debate over who is the better player — Messi or Ronaldo? — the conversation is over.
In this line, Drury uses the word “greatest” three times. For a man like Messi, it is anything but redundant. In fact, it is only fitting.
Messi has had a remarkable career to say the absolute least. He has played 1,003 matches, scored 793 goals, and won seven Ballons d’Or, 10 La Liga titles, and four Champions League trophies. What more could he have asked for?
A World Cup trophy.
In 2014, he came knocking on the door. But a heartbreaking loss to Germany in that year’s final meant that he had to wait not four more years, but eight, to come knocking again.
And now, as Peter Drury put it, “The greatest player of his age finally has the greatest accolade football can afford him.”
It will be a long time before any other player should come around and make us feel the same way we do about Lionel Messi — that is if we should ever feel that way again in our time. But even if we don’t, after witnessing “one of the greatest football matches ever played,” it hardly feels like we need to.
Listen to Peter Drury’s words after Gonzalo Montiel scored the final penalty for Argentina, sending them to the top of the world:
Banner image from FIFA World Cup on Twitter.