It all comes down to one last game in Qatar – the holders France against Argentina in the 2022 FIFA World Cup final at the Lusail Stadium. With two of the world’s best players in opposition on Sunday, Dec. 18, it promises to be an exciting clash for the neutrals, but a nerve-wracking one for fans of the respective finalists.
Lionel Scaloni’s Argentina team started their Qatar 2022 campaign with a shock 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia, but 2-0 victories over Mexico and Poland ensured that they qualified as group C winners. In the knockouts La Albiceleste beat Australia 2-1 in the round of 16, the Netherlands on penalties in the quarter-finals, and Croatia 3-0 in the semi-final.
Didier Deschamps’s France won their two opening group D games – 4-1 against Australia and 2-1 against Denmark – and although they lost 1-0 to Tunisia, Les Bleus qualified as group winners. France beat Poland 3-1 in the round of 16, England 2-1 in the quarter-finals, and Morocco 2-0 in the semi-finals.
Both nations are aiming for their third World Cup win. France were triumphant at Russia 2018 and on home soil in 1998, while Argentina won at Mexico 1986 and on home soil in 1978.
France’s Kylian Mbappé. Getty Images
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Messi vs. Mbappé: a ‘Dream Final’ for Qatar
Argentina’s Lionel Messi and France’s Kylian Mbappé have lit up Qatar 2022 and they will go head-to-head for a possible World Cup triple: winning the trophy, the golden boot for top goalscorer and the golden ball for the tournament’s best player. With five goals apiece, Messi leads the golden boot race having provided three assists compared with Mbappé’s two.
Rivals on the international stage, the duo are club team-mates at Paris Saint-Germain and form two-thirds of the “M-N-M” attack, along with Brazil’s Neymar. As well as the team trophy and individual awards at stake on Sunday, there’s also the bragging rights for when they return to the French capital. Messi vs. Mbappé is the “dream World Cup final” for Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, said Jesús Mata in Spanish newspaper Marca. PSG have been owned by Qatar Sports Investments since 2011.
The final represents different scenarios for the two No.10s. Mbappé, 23, is aiming for a second World Cup winners’ medal having starred for Les Bleus in Russia four years ago. Meanwhile, Argentina captain Messi, 35, has played in five World Cups for his country, but has never won the trophy. Having already broken Argentina’s all-time World Cup goals tally with his 11th, a penalty against Croatia, he is set to add another record this weekend. Barring a late injury, Messi will make history on Sunday by appearing for a men’s record 26th time in the World Cup – in what will be his last World Cup match.
This World Cup final “could be one for the ages”, said Phil McNulty on BBC Sport. And on the evidence of what we have seen in Qatar so far, “it is too close to call”. The result could even come down to “one moment of genius” from the two players “most likely to provide it”.
Juan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images
2022 FIFA World Cup match facts
- Who: Argentina vs. France
- When: Sunday, Dec. 18, 2022
- Time: Check local listings
- Where: Lusail Stadium, Al Daayen, Qatar
Gabriel Bouys/Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty Images
Messi looked to have been holding his left hamstring during the win over Croatia, but the Argentine skipper insisted there was no problem and that he felt “really good”, “strong” and “ready to play each game”. Considering the way Messi “tore” Croatia to shreds, “potentially on one leg”, there’s almost “no chance he would be kept out of the World Cup final”, said Kyle Bonn on The Sporting News.
Argentina will also hope that winger Angel Di Maria will be fully fit, while full-backs Marcos Acuna and Gonzalo Montiel are both available after suspension.
In the semi-final, France were without midfielder Adrien Rabiot and defender Dayot Upamecano, who sat out the win against Morocco due to illness. They are both expected to be ready.
There have also been suggestions that Karim Benzema could make a “sensational return” to the France squad for the final, said Jonathan Gorrie in the London Evening Standard. The Ballon d’Or winner was ruled out of the tournament with a thigh injury, but with Deschamps not calling up a replacement it means that the Real Madrid striker is still registered on the 26-man squad. The 34-year-old has returned to training at Real and “could fly out” to Qatar in what would be a “dramatic boost” for Les Bleus.
Possible starting XIs
- Argentina: Martinez; Molina, Romero, Otamendi, Acuna, De Paul, Paredes, Fernandez, Mac Allister, Messi (captain), Alvarez
- France: Lloris (captain); Kounde, Varane, Konate, T. Hernandez, Rabiot, Tchouameni; Dembele, Griezmann, Mbappe; Giroud
Jean Catuffe/Getty Images
Predictions and odds
“Do I have to? Really?” said Joe Brennan on AS. “I will go for a draw after 120 minutes” and “endless penalties” until every player and substitute scores and the managers have to take one each. Then Scaloni “buries his” and Argentina win. “OK, maybe it doesn’t play out exactly like that, but it’s the only way my brain can compute how to separate these two football giants. I predict an Argentina… win? Wait, do I?”
While Messi would appear to be “destined for the ultimate glory”, this French team “will take some beating”, said Jonathan Gorrie in the London Evening Standard. “Seemingly incapable of panicking” and boasting “obvious firepower,” they could “feasibly weather the Argentine storm” on their way to a third World Cup win. Prediction: France to win 2-1.
There’s not much between these teams and “I can see it going all the way to penalties”, where Argentina will be “the slight favorite,” said Robert Kidd in Forbes. “I think it will finish 1-1 after extra time,” and Argentina, and Lionel Messi, will win the 2022 World Cup on penalties.
As much as a Messi-led victory for Argentina would be “memorable,” a French victory would be “historic,” said Dan Roberts on Football Italia. It will be the “first time since 1962 that a nation has won the tournament twice in a row.” Obviously, it will “break Argentinian hearts,” but this is a France team that could be about to “go down in history.”
Right now, the latest odds are “about as close as they can be,” said Brian Good on Oddschecker. But, it looks as though France have the “early upper hand when it comes to the betting markets”. France are priced at 10/11 to lift the trophy, while Argentina are 19/20. Prices as of 15 December, according to Oddschecker.
David Ramos/Getty Images
The 80,000-seater Lusail Stadium is the centerpiece of the Qatar World Cup and will host the final on Sunday. Located nine miles north of Doha, there have been six group games, one round of 16 match, one quarter-final and the semi-final between Argentina and Croatia previously held at the stadium during the tournament.
- Head coach: Lionel Scaloni
- Key player: Lionel Messi
- One to watch: Julian Alvarez
- Goalkeepers: Emiliano Martinez (Aston Villa), Franco Armani (River Plate) and Geronimo Rulli (Villarreal)
- Defenders: Gonzalo Montiel (Sevilla), Nahuel Molina (Atletico Madrid), German Pezzella (Real Betis), Cristian Romero (Tottenham Hotspur), Nicolas Otamendi (Benfica), Lisandro Martinez (Manchester United), Juan Foyth (Villarreal), Nicolas Tagliafico (Olympique Lyonnais), Marcos Acuna (Sevilla)
- Midfielders: Leandro Paredes (Juventus), Guido Rodriguez (Real Betis), Enzo Fernandez (Benfica), Rodrigo De Paul (Atletico Madrid), Exequiel Palacios (Bayer Leverkusen), Alejandro Gomez (Sevilla), Alexis Mac Allister (Brighton & Hove Albion)
- Forwards: Paulo Dybala (AS Roma), Lionel Messi (Paris Saint-Germain), Angel Di Maria (Juventus), Nicolas Gonzalez (Fiorentina), Joaquin Correa (Inter Milan), Lautaro Martinez (Inter Milan), Julian Alvarez (Manchester City)
- Head coach: Didier Deschamps
- Key player: Kylian Mbappé
- One to watch: Aurelien Tchouameni
- Goalkeepers: Alphonse Areola (West Ham), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Steve Mandanda (Rennes)
- Defenders: Theo Hernandez (AC Milan), Ibrahima Konate (Liverpool), Jules Kounde (Barcelona), Benjamin Pavard (Bayern Munich), William Saliba (Arsenal), Dayot Upamecano (Bayern Munich), Raphael Varane (Manchester United), Axel Disasi (Monaco)
- Midfielders: Eduardo Camavinga (Real Madrid), Youssouf Fofana (Monaco), Matteo Guendouzi (Marseille), Adrien Rabiot (Juventus), Aurelien Tchouameni (Real Madrid), Jordan Veretout (Marseille)
- Forwards: Kingsley Coman (Bayern Munich), Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona), Olivier Giroud (AC Milan), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Kylian Mbappe (Paris St-Germain), Randal Kolo Muani (Eintracht Frankfurt), Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)
- Injured and out of the World Cup: Lucas Hernandez (Bayern Munich)
This article was written by Mike Starling from The Week UK and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive Content Marketplace. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.
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