The fixture of all football fixtures takes center-stage at Lusail Stadium this Sunday, to decide who will be crowned champions of the world.
It is France hoping to complete a successful sequel, while Argentina hope to pay tribute to the late Diego Maradona.
The football world has a date with the M&M’s of Mbappe vs Messi. Just like a bag of M&M’s, we have a sweet treat coming up. Let’s breakdown the most important game in the football calendar.
Argentina 🆚 France
The #FIFAWorldCup Final is SET! 🇦🇷🇫🇷
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) December 14, 2022
Mbappe vs Messi
Teammates at Paris Saint Germain but enemies come Sunday’s kick-off. Lionel Messi is set to play his final ever FIFA World Cup match, while Kylian Mbappe looks to have a second gold medal at just the age of 23.
Both players have been incredibly crucial in the run up to the final for their countries. As well as a World Cup to be determined, there is also the Golden Boot.
They lead the charge for the individual statement as Mbappe has five goals and two assists while Messi currently has the upper hand with five goals and three assists. But they’re not the only players in the running: Olivier Giroud (four goals) and Argentina’s Julian Alvarez (four goals) will want to have a say in this final hurdle. The race for the Golden Boot alone makes it all so exciting.
One thing both players have in common is that both will be playing in the second World Cup final of their careers. Where Mbappe was successful in 2018., Messi on the other hand could not get his Argentine counterparts over the line in 2014.
Will Messi get to celebrate his last dance at the highest level and cement his legacy as the best player of all time? Or will Mbappe show to the world that the baton has been passed on?
Expect fireworks, these two aren’t afraid to go toe-to-toe
The last time these two met, in the Last-16 of the 2018 World Cup, they played out one of the best World Cup matches in recent history.
Here’s how they lined up four years ago. How times have changed since this fixture.
#FRAARG // FORMATIONS
Thoughts on these teams? pic.twitter.com/zrwPqShAj0
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) June 30, 2018
It was the match that saw Mbappe break onto the scene by showing the world his incredible speed with the ball. The game went back-and-forth, with both teams taking the lead at various stages. It also featured two of the goals of the tournament, with France ultimately triumphing 4-3.
A match that had everything got the spectators realizing that France meant business in their World Cup bid.
But what can we expect this time?
Argentina were many people’s favourites to bring home a third World Cup before this tournament began in Qatar. For France, the shock defeat to Switzerland on penalties at UEFA Euro 2020 left some of the fans with doubts going into this.
France: A little underwhelming, but they win the big moments
When you look at both team’s run up to the final, you could argue that the defending world champions have had it harder. The wins against England (quarter-finals) and Morocco (semi-finals) relied on moments of magic as they lost the balance of the game, but ultimately won the game’s critical moments.
The resurgence of Antoine Griezmann over the last four weeks has been breathtaking. The 31-year-old is joint top assister with three and one of his most crucial moments was the sublime left wing cross to Giroud’s head to beat England.
Griezmann is yet to score, with Deschamps deploying him a little deeper. His role has been critical in linking the midfield and attack.
Argentina: Carrying the burden of history?
Meanwhile, Argentina have not made it look so easy either in their attempt to win their first World Cup since 1986. The opening game stunned the world when Saudi Arabia beat the Argentines 2-1, which ended a run of 36 games unbeaten. However, that defeat was a wakeup call to Lionel Scaloni’s men; they have won every game since. The last team to win a World Cup after losing their opener was Spain back in 2010 when they fell short to Switzerland.
The 2021 Copa America winners had tough tests against Australia (last 16) and the Netherlands (quarter-finals). In both games, their defence showed weaknesses even with a healthy lead. Australia came close to coming back from being 2-0 down when a last-minute shot was denied by Martinez. Then, Wout Weghorst scored a late brace for the Dutch to take the game to penalties. This came after a Messi penalty looked to have put the game beyond The Netherlands. Argentina can be caught off guard.
One player though that has been the breakout star at the World Cup is Enzo Fernandez. In the semi-final win over Croatia, no player made more tackles (four) than Fernandez, while his 62 passes was the joint-highest for Argentina alongside Messi.
France looked to be the bookies’ favourites but Argentina’s thrilling 3-0 win over Croatia and the expectation of a lot more South American fans at Lusail Stadium, with the presence of Messi, has a script no one dares to write down.
Whatever happens, this World Cup final will deliver history.