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Argentina and France set an appointment with history in the World Cup final

  • Who: Argentina vs. France, World Cup final
  • Where: Iconic Lusail Stadium, Doha
  • When: Sunday December 18 at 18:00 (15:00 GMT)
  • FIFA ranking: Argentina (3), France (4)
  • Head-to-head record: 12 games since 1930; Argentina won six, France won three and three draws

Ahead of Sunday’s World Cup final, shot after shot has focused on the battle of the Number 10s: Argentina’s Lionel Messi and France’s Kylian Mbappe.

Messi the magician, the PlayStation footballer, arguably the greatest the world has ever seen, is heading towards retirement. Mbappé, the prodigious talent who has scored just two fewer World Cup goals than Messi, but is only 23 years old and ready to take the mantle from the 35-year-old Argentine as the best player in the world.

But it is, of course, more complicated than that.

Argentina’s teams of recent years may have been built entirely around Messi, but as the years have passed, his role at La Albiceleste has developed beyond the non-stop goal-scoring machine into into a supreme playmaker, empowering his teammates and waiting for the perfect moment to unleash a little magic. . And works.

Soccer is a team game, and Messi’s Argentina understands it.

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Likewise, France is more than Mbappé. Had they had some of their global superstars, like the injured Karim Benzema, Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante, there’s no guarantee the 2018 winners would have made it that far. Due to his absence, the attention of the world press, as well as that of the defensive lines throughout the tournament, has been focused on Mbappé. And that has allowed the super-versatile Antoine Griezmann and veteran Olivier Giroud the time and space to shine.

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“Tomorrow’s game is Argentina against France, much more than Messi against Mbappé,” Argentina manager Lionel Scaloni told reporters on Saturday when asked about the two PSG superstars and teammates who have scored five goals so far in the tournament. from Qatar.

“I think that both teams have the weapons they need and that the game can be decided by other players and not necessarily those two. Lion [Messi] He is doing well and we hope the match goes well for us, but it is a match between Argentina and France, and there are many players who can decide the match”.

kylian mbappe
Kylian Mbappe has been in impressive form since the start of the tournament [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

France, for their part, received a boost on Saturday, with several players who had been sidelined for the past few days with a virus returning to the team’s training session. Adrien Rabiot and Dayot Upamecano missed France’s 2-0 semi-final victory over Morocco, while Raphael Varane, Ibrahima Konate and Kingsley Coman were absent for the last two days of training. But all five players will be available to head coach Didier Deschamps, one of only three men to have won the World Cup both as a player and as a coach.

“The France team has always been for me the most beautiful thing that has happened to me in my professional life,” Deschamps told reporters on Saturday.

“I already had a great experience as a player and now I have the privilege of experiencing it as a coach. Now, 10 years have passed, and it’s really the passion, the very, very high level. So, I’m good, very good, very happy to be in this position.”

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date with history

Both Argentina and France have won the World Cup twice in their history: in 1978 and 1986 for the former, and in 1998 and 2018 for the latter.

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The crowd in Doha, however, seems to believe that Argentina’s day for a third victory has arrived, and the nearly 90,000 capacity Lusail Stadium will be dominated by the whites and the light blues.

The prospect of Messi finally winning a World Cup in his last tournament brought additional flights of Argentine fans to Qatar, with at least an estimated 40,000 Argentines in the stadium.

“We all believe that this will be Messi’s day,” said Ricardo Schwarz, a professor from Córdoba, his voice hoarse from singing the songs of the Argentine fans for more than an hour.

“I still don’t have a ticket, but I haven’t given up hope yet,” he added. “They are on the market, but they are expensive.”

Supporters told the AFP news agency that tickets with a face value of $750 were being offered for more than $4,000 in WhatsApp groups set up to swap seats at the stadium.

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Deschamps also said that he expects a one-sided atmosphere: “They sing a lot and are very expressive. It’s okay. After all, it is a World Cup final, but our opponents are not in the stands.”

This is the 11th World Cup final to be played between a South American and a European nation.

In both the quarter-final against England and the semi-final against Morocco, the French have come out strong to take the lead in the first half and then have been content to soak up the pressure and play on the counter-attack, a tactic that also worked four years ago. in the country’s run on the World Cup title.

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Can that also work against Argentina, with Messi in such brilliant form?

“Things always happen in a game that you’re not ready for,” said France captain Hugo Lloris, who is bidding to become the first man to captain a team to the World Cup title twice. “That’s where you have to show good team spirit, and you also have to have that feeling to go all out and dig deep in those difficult moments.

“Argentina is a strong team and there are many other players, a young generation that is emerging, and you can feel that they are all dedicated to Leo Messi.”

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