Argentina are looking to win the tournament for the first time since 1986, while France are looking to become their first consecutive champions in 60 years.
DOHA, Qatar — Lionel Messi is about to have a long-awaited one World Championship Winner’s medal if Argentina meets holders France in Sunday’s final.
One of the greatest footballers of all time is within reach of the one major trophy that has eluded him in his storied career.
But after losing the final in Brazil in 2014, when Argentina lost 1-0 to Germany in extra time, Messi knows all too well the pain of seeing his World Cup dreams dashed.
If Argentina were to win the tournament for the first time since 1986, here’s how they could do it:
LEAVE IT TO MESSI
There is no escaping the feeling that it is so Messi’s destiny is to emulate the great football star Diego Maradona and lead Argentina to the World Cup title. The 35-year-old Paris Saint-Germain forward was in impressive form in Qatar, scoring five goals and providing some magical assists en route to the final. Maradona, who died in 2020, also scored five times at 86 and was an icon for his team and country. Messi doesn’t dominate 90-minute games like he did in his prime. Instead, he decides them with brilliant moments that showcase the talents that have led many to cite him as the greatest footballer in history. He’s lived up to his nation’s expectations throughout his career but never really delivered at a World Cup. Though past his prime, he was more influential at this tournament than at any of his previous four World Championships. Argentina fans seem confident that they will lift the trophy for the third time and that there is more than just Messi guiding them. “Maradona,” they sing, “cheers to Lionel” from heaven.
CONCENTRATION IS KEY
Assessing his side’s semi-final defeat by France, Moroccan coach Walid Regragui provided an intriguing observation. “I think every country that plays France thinks they’re close to winning,” he said. “But when you’re close to winning, you’re still a long way from winning.” After a long period of pressure, Morocco eventually lost 2-0. England fared similarly in the quarter-finals. France won that game 2-1, although England’s players thought they were the better team. The warning is there for Argentina. Both teams gave up possession and attacked at the break. Perhaps the team that manages to stick to this tactic instead of getting sucked in and pushing too far forward will win. Maintaining that focus and discipline will be crucial for Argentina – especially given the threat of Kylian Mbappe’s speed if France breaks through.
FEEDING THE FANS
It was emotional for Argentina and their fans who lit up the tournament in Qatar. The mass outburst of emotion was a feature after each victory. That can be tough on players – but in this case, it felt like the opposite was true. Messi and company look like they are being driven rather than weighed down by the burden of expectation. There is a feeling that the players and the fans are pulling together and if Argentina’s fans outnumber France’s as expected at the Lusail Stadium on Sunday, it could give Messi and his team-mates an advantage. However, the Moroccan fans dominated the atmosphere in their country’s semi-final match against France, only to end up on the losing side.
Key points on how France can win another World Cup title
France wants to become the first country to successfully defend its defences World Championship titles in 60 years and Didier Deschamps the first coach to have led his team to consecutive championships since 1938.
Do they have what it takes against Argentina?
In his ten-year tenure, Deschamps has proven to be smart and pragmatic, open to tactical changes when the game calls for it.
He has a talented and cohesive squad at his disposal, led by striker Kylian Mbappé, the star of France’s World Cup triumph in Russia four years ago.
Here are some keys to repeating that feat on Sunday at Lusail Stadium.
Mbappé’s speed, strength and shooting accuracy are proven threats and put him on the line at 23 to one day become the all-time top goalscorer at the World Cup. He has already added five goals in Qatar to the four he scored in Russia in 2018.
One of Mbappé’s defining images at the tournament in Russia was the race that earned France a penalty against Argentina the round of 16.
His blistering pace should test Argentina’s defence, but he’s not the only threat. Center forward Olivier Giroud has overtaken Thierry Henry to become France’s top scorer. Giroud has scored four goals in Qatar so far.
In the semifinals, Morocco showed how to exploit France’s left wing and Mbappé’s relative lack of protection for their defence. Argentina have a speedy, attacking full-back in Nahuel Molina who – when playing in a role similar to that of Achraf Hakimi for Morocco – can help target France left-back Theo Hernández.
Deschamps responded on Wednesday by knocking out Giroud, sending Mbappé down the middle and using substitute Marcus Thuram down the left flank to both attack and protect Hernández. It also relieved industrious France Midfield led by Antoine Griezmann.
Thuram and Mbappé then combined to score the goal for Randal Kolo Muani in a 2-0 win over Morocco.
Only once in the last 11 finals has the team that scored first not won the trophy. That was France in 2006.
It sounds so simple and it worked for this generation of Les Bleus in World Cup KO matches.
France have opened the scoring in each of their seven matches from the round of 16 at the last two World Cups.
Croatia, on the other hand, have never scored the first goal in seven games in the same period, finally losing to France in the 2018 final Argentina in the semifinals on Tuesday.
In fact, only Argentina have led France in those seven games – for a brief stint in their epic game in Kazan four years ago.
France were 2-1 down for nine minutes of the second half until right-back Benjamin Pavard made a stinging shot – as selected goal of the tournament – balanced. France won that game 4-3 after Mbappé also scored twice.
Under Deschamps, France takes the lead and quickly tightens the defense. His team never seem to panic about relieving pressure, as they did in the second half against both England and Morocco.
According to FIFA statistics, France had 36% possession in the quarter-finals and only 34% in the semi-finals in the 2-1 win against England.
That 34% figure was the same in the semis for Argentina, who happily passed the ball to Croatia and then hit hard and fast as the space opened up.
Argentina haven’t had to lag behind in Qatar since it opened 1:2 against Saudi Arabia.
disease is runs through the French squad, like earlier in Qatar for Switzerland.
The three centre-backs France rely on – Raphaël Varane, Ibrahima Konaté and Dayot Upamecano – have all been affected this week.
Upamecano appears to be the closest thing to a full recovery and Varane’s status is perhaps the biggest concern as a senior partner to his less experienced teammates.
Konaté was great against Morocco, processing the 22 crosses into the box that France had to defend.
Argentina, with strikers Lionel Messi and Julián Álvarez at the forefront of attack, prefer to run hard towards opposing defenses or cross the ball into dangerous areas with low passes. France’s defense needs clear heads and quick feet.
Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris often sent the ball long against Morocco, dodging the pressing forward and making fewer demands on his defenders.
https://www.kvue.com/article/news/nation-world/world-cup-final-prediction-argentina-france/507-e5bded66-272e-4019-9019-dc2f1778e52f World Cup final prediction: will Argentina or France win?