Lionel Messi believes Diego Maradona "encouraged us from heaven" as Argentina beat France in Sunday's World Cup final.

La Albiceleste ended a 36-year wait to win their third World Cup with a penalty shoot-out victory over the reigning champions at Lusail Stadium.

The teams drew 3-3 after extra time, with a Messi double and Angel Di Maria strike cancelled out by a Kylian Mbappe hat-trick as a gripping tie went all the way to spot-kicks.

However, Kingsley Coman and Aurelien Tchouameni failed to convert their penalties as Argentina won the shoot-out 4-2 to earn Messi his first World Cup in dramatic fashion.

The win was especially emotional with the World Cup in Qatar the first since Maradona, who famously led Argentina to glory at the 1986 World Cup, passed away in November 2020.

After losing the 2014 World Cup final to Germany because of a 113th-minute Mario Gotze winner, Messi was glad the same fate did not befall Argentina against France.

Messi released a message on Instagram, saying: "I always dreamed of being a world champion and I didn't want to stop trying, even knowing that maybe I would never give up.

"This cup we got is also from all those who did not make it in the previous World Cups we played, like in 2014 in Brazil, where they all deserved it for how they fought until the same final, worked hard and wanted it as much as I did.

"It's also from Diego who encouraged us from heaven.

"And of all those who spent the time always supporting the national team without looking so much at the result but the desire we always put into it, also when things didn't go as we wanted.

"Many times failure is part of the journey and learning and without the disappointments it is impossible for success to come.

"Thank you very much from my heart! Let's go Argentina!!!"

Messi's latest Instagram message came after his photo holding the World Cup trophy became the most popular post in the social media platform's history, amassing 65 million likes.

He followed that up by uploading a picture on Tuesday of him in bed holding the famous trophy, which was liked over 40 million times in the nine hours after it was posted.

After the country's government declared Tuesday a national holiday, Messi and his team-mates landed back in Argentina and were greeted by mass crowds of adoring fans.

The mentality of Argentina's World Cup-winning defender Lisandro Martinez can help Manchester United end their five-year trophy drought this season, according to Scott McTominay.

Martinez initially struggled after swapping Ajax for United in July, but the defender has since emerged as a key part of Erik ten Hag's new-look team, who sit fifth in the Premier League.

Martinez appeared in five of Argentina's seven games in Qatar – starting twice – as Lionel Messi led the Albiceleste to their third title, which was clinched with a penalty shoot-out win against France.

Addressing United's fans ahead of Wednesday's EFL Cup last-16 tie against Burnley, McTominay detailed his first conversation with Martinez after Argentina's triumph, saying the Red Devils must adopt a winning mentality to challenge for silverware.

"Success will always be winning trophies and that's the most important thing at this football club," McTominay said.

"With the manager that we've got now, we've got a really good opportunity to start that journey, especially this year. 

"We've got a really good chance to implement ourselves and really start pushing. I feel like this is the year where we can go for it and that’s firmly reiterated by all the coaches and in the squad.

"I messaged Lisandro the other day and said congratulations and he said, 'we go for the next one'. He's just won a World Cup, so that shows the mentality that is in the group."

Martinez is not the only Argentine to impress for United this season, with teenage winger Alejandro Garnacho scoring twice since breaking into the first-team squad.

Garnacho scored a stoppage-time winner in United's most recent Premier League game at Fulham, and McTominay believes there is no limit to the 18-year-old's potential if he remains grounded. 

"He's a hell of a footballer and if he keeps his feet on the ground and keeps learning and keeps wanting to work hard, then he can do what he wants in football," he said.

"He's such a talented player and we've got to keep him humble and keep him working hard as well."

Pele is the greatest of all time for Peter Reid, though the former England midfielder knows there is not much to choose between the Brazil legend, Diego Maradona or Lionel Messi.

Argentina's World Cup success in Qatar has surely cemented Messi's place as the greatest player of his generation, though whether the 35-year-old will go down as the best of ever is open for debate.

Messi has now matched his late compatriot Maradona in dragging Argentina to World Cup glory, with the late, great former captain lifting the trophy at Mexico 1986.

Reid played for England against Argentina in the famous 'Hand of God' game in that tournament and was left in Maradona's wake for the mercurial number 10's second goal of the match, which has been immortalised as 'The Goal of the Century'.

Reid, though, quipped Pele – a winner of three World Cups – was his pick.

"Erm, Pele," Reid joked when asked by Stats Perform who was the best out of Messi and Maradona. "They're all icons of the game."

 

Reid is pleased to see Messi finally get his hands on the only trophy that had been missing from his collection.

"Yeah, I think he's been an absolutely outstanding footballer and it was the one major trophy that he hadn't won, and I think he's a credit to himself on the park and off the park," he said.

He added of the tournament: "I thought there was some great games, I thought the best team won it and I still don't know the penalty rule. I haven't got a clue what a penalty is these days, but I did enjoy it, I've got to say."

It was a similar story for Liverpool great Ian Rush, who enjoyed his experience in Qatar supporting Wales.

"I was out there and from a Welsh point of view it was a privilege to be there, 1958 was last time we qualified so no matter where the World Cup was going to be, I was going to be there because it's the first time I have gotten the chance to see Wales playing at the World Cup," Rush told Stats Perform.

"But I enjoyed it and I really enjoyed the World Cup out there. The people were very friendly. It's the icing on the cake for Messi to get his hands on the World Cup."

Tom Brady has expressed sympathy for Kylian Mbappe after his remarkable hat-trick was not enough to win the World Cup final for France.  

Mbappe became just the second man to score a treble in the tournament's showpiece game – after Geoff Hurst in 1966 – as Les Bleus forced a penalty shoot-out at the end of an epic 3-3 draw with Argentina.

The forward's eight goals in Qatar won him the Golden Boot, but he was unable to get his hands on the trophy for a second time as the Albiceleste triumphed on spot-kicks.

Speaking on the Let's Go podcast, seven-time Super Bowl champion Brady said Mbappe's World Cup final heartache was proof no sportsperson was "entitled" to victory.

"Man, losing sucks. That's just the reality. There's not a lot of explanation," the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback said.

"I have a lot more empathy for guys who are putting in a lot more time and energy and things aren't going their way. 

"That could be not just a football player. That's anyone in their job. That could be the guy working at UPS. That could be the guy working in the military. That could be the guy working in the sales office.

"That could be Kylian Mbappe, who scored three goals in the World Cup final, and you know what? The team didn't win. That's life. 

"You're not entitled to winning. No one is guaranteed winning. No one is guaranteed tomorrow. 

"The sun came up today, and you're going to try and make this the best day you can."

 

The French Football Federation (FFF) has confirmed it will be filing complaints after some France players were subject to "racist and hateful remarks" on social media.

France went down 4-2 on penalties to Argentina in the World Cup final on Sunday, following a 3-3 draw at Lusail Stadium in Doha.

In the wake of that loss, several France players are said to have been racially abused on social media.

On Monday, Bayern Munich condemned the abuse of Kingsley Coman, who missed a penalty in the shoot-out. 

Now, the FFF has promised to lodge complaints against those responsible for the abuse of Coman and his team-mates.

"Following the World Cup final, several players from the French team were the subject of unacceptable racist and hateful remarks on social networks," a statement read.

"The FFF condemns them and will file a complaint against those responsible."

Lionel Messi's Instagram message celebrating Argentina's World Cup win has become the most popular post in the social media platform's history, with 56 million likes.

Messi finally won international football's greatest prize after Argentine edged out France 4-2 on penalties after a thrilling 3-3 draw in Sunday's final at Lusail Stadium.

For the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner, it is the final rubber stamp on his status as the greatest footballer of his generation, and arguably the greatest of all time.

Now, Messi has another record to his name, with his post in the wake of Argentina's success surpassing the previous high-water mark held by the World Record Egg, which gained 55.9 million likes.

"Thank you very much to my family, to all who support me and also to all who believed in us," the 35-year-old wrote in his caption.

"We demonstrate once again that Argentines when we fight together and united we are capable of achieving what we set out to do.

"The merit belongs to this group, which is above individuals. It is the strength of all fighting for the same dream that was also the dream of all Argentines... We did it!!!"

Messi, who was named the World Cup Golden Ball recipient for the second time, scored twice in Sunday's final, and netted the first successful penalty of his side's shoot-out.

Didier Deschamps thanked fans after France landed back in Paris following their "cruel" World Cup final defeat to Argentina on Sunday.

Les Bleus were looking to become the first team to retain the World Cup since Brazil in 1962, but they were beaten 4-2 on penalties by Argentina after an enthralling 3-3 draw.

Kylian Mbappe's hat-trick helped France recover from 2-0 and then 3-2 down, but Aurelien Tchoumeni and Kingsley Coman failed to convert in the shoot-out as Deschamps' men fell to a heartbreaking defeat.

Nevertheless, the team were greeted by a mass crowd as they returned to Paris on Monday, and Deschamps expressed his appreciation for the support after such a crushing loss.

"It is our duty with the players to thank all these French men and women who supported us and gave a lot of strength to this France group," he told TF1. "We shared fabulous emotions even if the ending is cruel and hurts.

"We must not forget all that this group did while having a lot of difficulties before and during the World Cup. They experienced fabulous emotions during this month of competition."

Captain Hugo Lloris echoed his head coach's sentiments after missing out on becoming the first man to skipper his team to two World Cup trophies.

"After the pain of yesterday, [the reception is] a little comfort," Lloris said. "The most important thing is the recognition of the supporters, even if as an athlete we would have liked to have this gold medal and bring the cup back to France."

France now turn their attentions to the 2024 European Championship in Germany, where they will be looking to win the tournament for a third time.

Lloris compelled his team to carry their strong mentality from Qatar into their next competition, adding: "Despite what happened before and during the tournament, we showed resilience, we remained a group. We have to keep that going for the Euros."

Striker Olivier Giroud, who surpassed Thierry Henry as France's all-time record goalscorer in Qatar, added: "We're going to give each other a big hug and go on vacation to recharge our batteries, because there is a season to finish.

"It is always difficult to leave a group with which we spent a month and a half. We are like a family, like brothers."

Xavi and Joan Laporta paid tribute to Lionel Messi following his long-awaited World Cup triumph, the latter stating "historical justice has been done."

The former Barcelona star led Argentina to glory in Qatar as La Albiceleste defeated reigning champions France 4-2 on penalties following an enthralling 3-3 draw at Lusail Stadium.

The seven-time Ballon d'Or winner finally added the sport's biggest prize to his collection following a glittering career that has also seen him win 11 league titles, four Champions Leagues, three Club World Cups and the Copa America.

And the Paris Saint-Germain forward's achievements were by saluted by Barca head coach Xavi with his former team-mate also empathising with Ousmane Dembele and Jules Kounde, who were on the losing French side.

"It was an extraordinary final for the spectator, one of the best matches I've seen in my life," he said at the premiere of a new Prime Video docuseries entitled 'FC Barcelona, A New Era.'

"I think Argentina were better and deserved it. I feel sorry for Dembele and Kounde. But we must congratulate Leo Messi, who now has his World Cup, something that could not be missing in his career."

Blaugrana president Laporta added: "He deserves it, he is the best of all time, historical justice has been done.

"We would have been happy if our Kounde and Dembele won it, but I think all of us who love and are grateful to Messi for what he has given us are happy for him."

Cristiano Ronaldo is "a big failure of the World Cup" and has "damaged his legacy", former Germany international Lothar Matthaus claims.

Ronaldo has endured a turbulent six weeks at club and international level, having been released from Manchester United prior to the start of the tournament in Qatar following an explosive interview with Piers Morgan.

After scoring in the opening game against Ghana, Ronaldo appeared furious when withdrawn during the final group-stage match against South Korea and was subsequently dropped to the bench for the following two matches in the knockout stage.

He would not be missed against Switzerland, Goncalo Ramos scoring a hat-trick as his replacement, then Ronaldo came off the bench in a fruitless effort to stave off defeat to Morocco.

With 37-year-old Ronaldo now on the hunt for a new club, German World Cup great Matthaus has conceded he is unsure who will make a move for his services, delivering a damning assessment of the five-time Ballon D'Or winner.

"With his ego trips, Ronaldo has damaged the team and himself," Matthaus told newspaper Bild.

"There is no doubt that he was a great player and an absolutely lethal finisher. But now he has damaged his legacy.

"I find it hard to think that he can find a place in a team. I kind of feel sorry for Ronaldo.

While Ronaldo and Portugal suffered a quarter-final exit, the fortunes of Lionel Messi and Argentina were vastly different – as they celebrated glory after a dramatic penalty shoot-out triumph against France in Sunday's final.

That affirmed Messi as the "player of the millennium" in the eyes of 1990 World Cup winner Matthaus, who had a further jibe for Ronaldo.

"Ronaldo is of course a big failure of the World Cup, the opposite of Messi," he said.

"[Messi is] the absolute winner. He deserves it because he has given me and all football fans great joy with his qualities and the way he plays over 17-18 years.

"For me, Messi is the player of the millennium."

France were above the clouds when the news came from Karim Benzema, and a thought came to mind: had he ever been more distant, figuratively or literally, from Les Bleus?

Retiring from international football at the age of 35 is the sort of thing that would not usually raise many eyebrows.

Yet Benzema's announcement, and its timing, caused a fresh quake, even as the tremors from Sunday's World Cup final were still being felt.

Why had it come the day after that momentous game? Was it coming today, win or lose yesterday? Why had Benzema interrupted his own birthday to release the news? Had he waited for the team flight to depart from Qatar before dropping his bombshell?

And why, almost above all, was the announcement so curt? Just 160 characters (in its original French format) to put the lid on a story of 97 caps and 37 goals for Les Bleus.

"I made the efforts and the mistakes it took to be where I am today and I'm proud of it! I have written my story and ours is ending," Benzema signed off.

He's taking the kids, the car and the dog, and the house is in his name, and he'll be back for his train set, don't you worry about that. Forget counselling, here's your divorce papers.

It felt like an entirely apt ending to what has been often an unhappy marriage between Benzema and the France national team.

There were 15 years and 77 days between his first and last caps, and his goals haul ranks fifth on the team's all-time list. He was man of the match against Spain in a Nations League final triumph last year, but it will be Benzema's near six-year absence from international duty that most likely defines him as a France player.

Because what else are you remembering? Sure, he was a starter at Euro 2012 and the 2014 World Cup, but France went out in the quarter-finals each time. And yes, there was certainly that Nations League win, but such a soupcon of success hardly satisfied Benzema's hunger for a proper platter.

He had been starved of the prospect of such a feed at Euro 2016, where France reached the final but lost out to Portugal, and again at the 2018 World Cup, where they beat Croatia in the final.

If it had come down to ability, Benzema would have been a part of those French feasts, but his exclusion from each squad, and his absence from national team service between the 4-0 win over Armenia on October 8, 2015, and the 3-0 victory against Wales on June 2, 2021, was not about Benzema's playing merits.

In November 2021, Benzema was handed a one-year suspended prison sentence and fined €75,000 after being found guilty of complicity in the attempted blackmail of Mathieu Valbuena, a former international team-mate, in a case dating back to June 2015.

He always denied the accusations, having been accused of helping four other men blackmail Valbuena over an intimate video that had been taken from Valbuena's mobile phone. The other four defendants were also found guilty.

France froze Benzema out before any court verdict, excluding him essentially from the point of the allegations coming to light almost until the moment the verdicts were delivered.

French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet announced in November 2019 that Benzema would never play for France again.

"Karim Benzema is a very good player, I've never cast his qualities into doubt," said Le Graet. "On the contrary, he shows at Real Madrid that he is one of the best players in his position. But the France adventure is over."

This story could have been so different. Benzema captained France during a friendly against Brazil in March 2015, and during his absence from the national team his trophy tally at Madrid stacked up spectacularly.

He was dramatically recalled in time for the delayed Euro 2020 finals, which were held last year, saying he felt "so proud" to be back, with Didier Deschamps noting there had been long discussions that opened that door. France then exited at the last-16 stage, despite Benzema making a positive contribution on the pitch.

And now, barely 18 months later, the door that was pushed ajar has closed, with Benzema this time doing the shutting down of his international career, rather than the FFF.

His final cap came in a 1-0 home defeat to Croatia in the Nations League, back in June. He should have figured in France's World Cup squad, but when he aggravated a thigh injury on the eve of the tournament it was announced he would play no part in the Qatar 2022 campaign.

Then, when rumours swirled that Benzema might make a comeback in time for the final, Deschamps quashed the prospect.

"That doesn't interest me," Benzema subsequently posted on Instagram, a somewhat cryptic message. You took what you wanted from that remark, but it was hardly a good-luck message to the squad ahead of the final against Argentina.

So what happened for it to end this way, with seemingly little love on either side?

Former France defender Eric Di Meco told RMC Sport: "For me, it is a huge mess. A guy who plays so much time at Real, so strong, who is a Ballon d'Or winner, and who has never been able to express himself in the France team.

"There is his responsibility, and it is good that he says that there are mistakes. But for me, it's a mess at the level of the France team."

France will survive this, of course. They should have Kylian Mbappe around for the next decade, rewriting the record books.

But it takes an expert, perhaps, to judge what France have lost with news of Benzema's retirement.

Zinedine Zidane, who might yet be the next France coach, and possibly sooner rather than later, was asked after a Real Madrid game in December 2020 whether he considered Benzema to be the greatest French forward of all time.

"As far as I'm concerned, yes, he is," Zidane said. "He's showing it with all he's achieving. He's been at Real Madrid for a long time, he's played over 500 games, the goals... Really, the trophies he's won speak for themselves.

"For me, he's the best there is, no doubt about it."

After Zidane left Madrid, Benzema's performances went to still greater heights, hitting 44 goals in 46 games for Madrid last season, lifting the Champions League and LaLiga trophies as captain.

High up in the skies on Monday, the retirement news probably reached Deschamps and the returning France squad.

Benzema's tale of 'here's what you could have won' has arrived at a sad denouement, with Deschamps surely guessing he would face press interrogation about the striker on landing in Paris. And in that respect, plus ca change.

Kylian Mbappe pledged France will return to the biggest stage after his World Cup final hat-trick was not enough to deny Lionel Messi and Argentina glory in Qatar.

Mbappe's remarkable treble – just the second to be scored in a men's World Cup final – ensured France forced a penalty shoot-out at the end of a back-and-forth 3-3 draw at Lusail Stadium.

He then converted the first penalty of the shoot-out, but was denied a second World Cup triumph as Kingsley Coman and Aurelien Tchouameni failed to score, handing the Albiceleste their third title.

Mbappe, who turns 24 on Tuesday, was defiant in his first social media post after Les Bleus' defeat on Monday, writing on Instagram: "We will return".

Three-time World Cup winner Pele was among those to respond to Mbappe's post, simply writing: "Merci".

The Paris Saint-Germain forward's tally of four goals in World Cup finals is unmatched by any player, while he is one of just five men to net in two showpiece games at the tournament – alongside Vava, Pele, Paul Breitner and Zinedine Zidane.

 

Former France attacker Louis Saha hailed Mbappe's performance when speaking to Sky Sports on Monday, describing it as unprecedented for a player of his age.

"It was stratospheric, it's an unbelievable achievement for a young guy like him to do that on that stage," Saha said.

"Everyone was looking for him, even Argentina were looking to defend him and doing everything to stop him. It was not possible. 

"On the big stage, with all the pressure on his shoulders, he managed to do this. 

"It's sad for him because for such a young age, he would have written a unique story. Nobody has done something like this.

"With all respect to other players, legends of the game, this guy's performance to maintain France's dream… the quality of his attitude through the tournament, it was absolutely breathtaking."

Lionel Messi's World Cup triumph is not enough for him to surpass Diego Maradona as Argentina's greatest player, according to Javier Zanetti.

Messi finally got his hands on the World Cup on Sunday after a thrilling final against France was settled on penalties at Lusail Stadium.

The 35-year-old scored twice in a thrilling 3-3 draw, before converting his penalty in the shoot-out, which Argentina won 4-2.

It was Argentina's third World Cup and especially poignant considering this was the first edition since Maradona, who famously led his nation to glory at the 1986 tournament, died in November 2020.

While Messi's performances in Qatar have cemented his place as the best player in history in the eyes of many, Zanetti feels he is still yet to outdo Maradona as Argentina's greatest of all time.

Zanetti told Stats Perform: "No, not for me. I don't like [the] comparison.

"We have to be grateful that the two greatest [players] in history are Argentines.

"I don't think [Messi] has changed. I think he is more mature now and he was able to transmit his leadership to the rest of the group this time."

Argentina were pegged back twice by France, first surrendering a 2-0 lead as Kylian Mbappe struck twice before levelling again in extra time after Messi had put Lionel Scaloni's men back in front.

Argentina's 36-year wait to lift international football's top prize again is the longest gap between a nation winning World Cup titles, and Zanetti believes the dramatic nature of their success made the victory even sweeter.

"It's a great emotion that the lads gave us because we have been waiting for it for a long time," Zanetti added. 

"I think they made it happen, the dream of millions of Argentinian fans around the world.

"It was a great final for us Argentines because it seemed it was all going in our way but then France had a great reaction."

Andres Iniesta, Messi's former team-mate at Barcelona, was delighted the now Paris Saint-Germain forward finally got to lift the World Cup.

"Yesterday's final was something spectacular, and that he [Messi] had the opportunity now to lift the World Cup is inexplicable," Iniesta told reporters while visiting Barcelona's training ground.

"Leo has done everything possible to achieve it. He has had a spectacular World Cup and the icing on the cake was incredible.

"I'm sure he feels maximum happiness."

Bayern Munich have condemned racist abuse suffered by Kingsley Coman in the aftermath of France's penalty shoot-out defeat against Argentina in the World Cup final.

Coman was introduced as a 71st-minute substitute with France 2-0 down on Sunday, making a positive impact as Kylian Mbappe's hat-trick helped Les Bleus force spot-kicks at the end of a pulsating 3-3 draw.

However, the winger was the first player to fail to convert in the shoot-out as Emiliano Martinez made a strong save to his right, before midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni put France's next kick wide.

Coman was subjected to discriminatory messages on social media following France's 4-2 shoot-out defeat, prompting his club to denounce those involved.

A statement issued via the Bundesliga champions' Twitter account read: "FC Bayern strongly condemn the racist comments made towards Kingsley Coman.

"The FC Bayern family is behind you, King. Racism has no place in sport or our society."

On the eve of the World Cup, the French Football Federation condemned racist messages addressed to midfielder Eduardo Camavinga following suggestions he was responsible for an injury suffered by Christopher Nkunku in training.

Brighton and Hove Albion chief executive Paul Barber is confident his side can keep hold of Alexis Mac Allister, despite the midfielder being a man in demand after playing a big part in Argentina's World Cup triumph.

Mac Allister started six of Argentina's seven games in Qatar, including Sunday's penalty shoot-out victory against France at Lusail Stadium in a thrilling final that finished 3-3 after extra time. 

The 23-year-old assisted Angel Di Maria's strike at the end of a superb team move that put Argentina two goals up in the first half, having also opened the scoring in his side's must-win final group game against Poland.

Mac Allister signed a new deal with Brighton in October, with the option for the club to extend it by a further year, and Barber does not expect the former Boca Juniors loanee to depart anytime soon.

"We were working on a new contract for Alexis in the build-up to the World Cup," Barber told talkSPORT. "We met Alexis' father [Carlos] several times. He himself played for Argentina with [Diego] Maradona no less, so there's a fantastic family history to playing for their country.

“As we've always said, when players do well, when their profile increases, there's always going to be interest in them. This will be no different; Alexis is no different. There was interest in him before the World Cup and I'm sure there will be more interest in him afterwards.

"All we can do in situations where you've got a great asset is to try and protect yourself as best as possible. We've done that with several of our players and staff over the last several years, and that's all you can do in these situations. We hope Alexis will continue to be playing for us for some time to come."

Mac Allister is due to fly back to Argentina with the rest of his team-mates to celebrate their first World Cup success in 36 years, something Barber says he has no issue with despite a packed fixture list coming up.

"We would be a very poor club [to deny him the chance to return to Argentina]," Barber told BBC Sport. "On the other hand, we've got games coming up thick and fast and one of the downsides of the Qatar World Cup is that we haven't yet even completed half a season.

"We've actually got a lot of work to do now and Alexis will be a big part of that. We're all looking forward to it very much."

Karim Benzema has retired from international football after sitting out France's run to the World Cup final due to injury.

The Real Madrid striker, who won the Ballon d'Or in October, announced the decision to end his career with Les Bleus on his 35th birthday.

He wrote on Twitter: "I made the efforts and the mistakes it took to be where I am today and I'm proud of it!

"I have written my story and ours is ending."

Benzema was ruled out of the Qatar 2022 finals on the eve of the tournament after suffering a thigh injury in a France training session.

 

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