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Amazing day for Mercedes at World Cup final

A self-confessed latecomer to football and all the joy and despair it brings with it, former Driffield woman Mercedes Hogarth will now be the envy of fans the world over after she attended the final of the World Cup in Qatar last month – a match widely regarded as one of the best ever.

An ex-Driffield School & Sixth Form student, Mercedes relocated from the Capital of the Wolds to Dubai just over 12 months ago, where she works as a key accounts manager for a large fruit and vegetable distributing company.

It was a world away from the rolling hills of the Yorkshire Wolds where she was brought up, but has led to some amazing opportunities, none more so than the showdown between Argentina and France that took place in Lusail on 18th December.

It appeared Argentina were on their way to a comfortable victory when Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria gave the South Americans a 2-0 lead.

However, France stormed back to score two goals in as many minutes to take the game to extra time.

Argentina regained the lead before Kylian Mbappe completed his hat-trick and it came down to the lottery of a penalty shootout, where Argentina prevailed, allowing Messi to lift the World Cup trophy in what is likely to be his final ever game in the competition.

But before the thrills and spills of the greatest final ever played, Mercedes and her partner Khalil attended five group games in Qatar.

And as Khalil is Iranian, this involved three Iran games, including their Group B opener against England.
Initially, as someone who had shown little interest in the world of international football, Mercedes was hoping for a draw, ensuring she and Khalil went home happy.

However, once in the stadium, her sense of national pride kicked in and there was only ever going to be one winner for her.

“Not being one of the greatest football fans in history, it was a nonchalant acceptance to an invitation to see my first match during the World Cup in Qatar that seemed a good way to introduce myself to this ‘beautiful game’, however, I could never have imagined what a captivating, emotionally charged and memorable event I was going to be privileged enough to be a part of,” Mercedes told the Wolds Weekly.

“My partner was proud to tell me that he had obtained tickets for us to see several matches, firstly, England v Iran.

“As Khalil is Iranian this was never going to be an easy one to watch together. Initially I felt a draw would be a reasonable outcome to wish for, but as soon as the Lions strode out onto the pitch any consideration of compromise was demolished by the surge of national pride, something I had never before experienced to such a degree.

“The stadium ‘surround sound’ engulfed all other senses, the buzz was like an electrical current, intent on connecting to the pitch, totally mesmerising.

“Every time something happened, let alone a goal, it felt like the stadium was taking off from a NASA launching pad.

“The result was never really in question, Khalil taking Iran’s defeat graciously, we left the stadium, both exhausted.

“Fortunately, the following games we went to were not so subjective for me: Iran v Wales, Iran v USA, Argentina v Netherlands and then Argentina v Croatia.

“It was disappointing when England finally dropped out, but by then football and its atmospheric trimmings had won me over.”

After their early introduction to the tournament, Mercedes and Khalil were then lucky enough to secure a golden ticket to the final.

Sadly, neither England, who were knocked out by France in the last eight, and Iran, who didn’t make it out of the group stages, weren’t involved.

However, it pitted two of football’s international giants and two of the world’s greatest players in Messi and Mbappe against each other.

Sat high in the stands, Mercedes had the perfect view of what was about to unfold, nothing of the like she, or anyone else, are likely to see on the World Cup stage again.

“I hadn’t expected to be going to the final, but my initial indifference to an invitation had transformed into a reaction of outright glee and anticipation,” she said.

“We flew from Dubai to Doha on the morning of the game and followed the deepening crowds as we neared the Lusail Stadium.

“This venue was something to behold, I felt like I was entering a space craft that would be lifting me to another world, and it all but did.

“This time we were perched high up at the top of the stand, like gods.

“Despite the alcohol ban, everyone was thoroughly intoxicated by the atmosphere alone.

“The anticipation felt more electric than ever. We kind of knew this was going to be a game to remember.

“This time I wanted Argentina to win, we had familiarised ourselves with them in watching the previous games against Netherlands and Croatia.

“I felt a sense of relief I did not need to feel too emotionally bound to a team at this point as this football thing had all become a bit overwhelming for me by now.

“Nevertheless, I was ready to enjoy the match. Once the game reached 2-0 in Argentina’s favour, I felt composed and relieved.

“I hadn’t thought it would make much difference to me, but as each of the goals were scored it cemented my support for Argentina more and I was happy with the result.

“It was nearly over, so all we had to do was to watch the final minutes. What happened after this does not need to be documented by me.

“It is already one of the greatest sporting highlights in living memory. Every single sense was pushed to the max.

“When it came to the shootout, the whole world seemed to pause, such suspense we didn’t even realise we’d stopped breathing.

“Then the finale. If you could have harnessed the euphoria it would have sent the whole stadium into space.

“Never again do I expect I will have an experience like I did. A beautiful game it is, in so many ways.

“Thank you to Qatar, thank you to the football world, thank you Khalil.”

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