Argentina and France will lock horns in the 2022 FIFA World Cup Final on Sunday evening in what promises to be a cracker and a befitting climax to a very entertaining football fiesta.
France, the defending champions are looking forward to being the third nation to win the highly coveted trophy back-to-back after Brazil and Italy.
On the other hand, Argentina, powered by PSG talisman, Lionel Messi, want to increase their haul.
The FIFA World Cup is the major trophy that the football wizard is yet to add to his list of achievements and he has shown so far that he is ready to power his side past the Europeans.
Argentine President Alberto Fernandez said he will be watching the match from home.
“Like millions of my compatriots, I will enjoy the final of the World Cup at home,” he said Sunday on Twitter.
Messi and his group would want to put out their best display in order to bring the trophy back home.
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Eyes on Messi
Messi has been exceptional for Argentina so far in the World Cup scoring five goals and creating three more along the way.
Pundits believe Messi’s performance on Sunday evening will determine where the trophy will go at the end of the match.
According to former Arsenal coach, Arsene Wenger, the 35-year-old had rediscovered his ability to hurt teams with his change of pace in Qatar.
“The boss of the orchestra is Messi and the music starts when he has the ball. But the rest of the orchestra is ready to work very hard.
“What is surprising for me in this tournament is that he has rediscovered that physical capacity to accelerate again at the right moment.
“He played a little bit last year at Paris Saint-Germain one-paced but he has mastered slow-quick again.
“He was never super quick but he was a master in change of direction and change of pace and he has found that again in this tournament. He attracts the opponent and suddenly he has that little burst that makes the difference.
“I’ve seen him here in the middle of three players and he’s like a guy with a lion in the circus.
“He tells the ball ‘you listen to me, my friend, I’m the boss here’.”
France have insisted playing in front of a largely hostile crowd against Argentina will not have an impact as they attempt to become the first team in 60 years to retain the trophy.
Argentina may have the backing of a majority of neutrals because of their love for Messi.
In addition, Argentina will also have far more supporters in the crowd at the Lusail Stadium, with up to 40,000 expected in Doha for the occasion, while French fans are set to number around 6,000.
Among the 6000 will be their President, Emmanuel Macron, who will attend the final in person.
On Wednesday, Macron also attended as France prevailed in its semi-final against Morocco.
“I am well aware that Argentina will have a lot of fans behind them,” said coach Didier Deschamps, who is hoping to become the first coach to win back-to-back World Cups since Italy’s Vittorio Pozzo in the 1930s.
“I expect a festive atmosphere with the Argentine people who are passionate and will be right behind their team.
“They sing a lot and are very expressive. That’s good, it’s a World Cup final after all, but our opponents are not in the stands.”
Meanwhile captain Hugo Lloris insisted France are not focusing solely on Messi, with Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni having built a solid team around their superstar.
“We know what Messi represents in the history of our sport but this is a match between France and Argentina. We will do everything to win this last battle,” he siad.
However, France have their own ‘Messi’ in Kyllian Mbappe.
France will need Mbappe to be at his best on Sunday evening as the 23-year-old is having another great outing in the World Cup just as he did in Russia four years ago.
The PSG forward has netted five goals in the tournament already just like his PSG teammate, Messi.
Already potentially the best player in the world, Mbappe will become one of the most internationally decorated stars of history if Sunday goes his way.
He has matured to become more of a team player at this tournament and he is expected to be in the middle of everything great for France in the final.
If he helps France to win on Sunday, he would have done what Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are unable to do, twice.
Who will be crowned the world football champions? Every football lover is eager to find the answer as clock ticks down the kick-off at 4pm Nigerian time.
Ahead of the cracker, we have highlighted how Argentina and France reached the World Cup final in Qatar below:
Argentina 1 (Messi 10-pen) Saudi Arabia 2 (Saleh Al-Shehri 48, Salem Al-Dawsari 53)
Argentina 2 (Messi 64, Fernandez 87) Mexico 0
Poland 0 Argentina 2 (Mac Allister 46, Alvarez 67)
Argentina 2 (Messi 35, Alvarez 57) Australia 1 (Fernandez 77-og)
Netherlands 2 (Weghorst 83, 90+11) Argentina 2 (Molina 35, Messi 73-pen) after extra time
Argentina win 4-3 on penalties
Argentina 3 (Messi 34-pen, Alvarez 39, 69) Croatia 0
Goalkeepers: Franco Armani (River Plate/ARG), Emiliano Martinez (Aston Villa/ENG), Geronimo Rulli (Villarreal/ESP)
Defenders: Marcos Acuna (Sevilla/ESP), Juan Foyth (Villarreal/ESP), Lisandro Martinez (Manchester United/ENG), Nahuel Molina (Atletico Madrid/ESP), Gonzalo Montiel (Sevilla/ESP), Nicolas Otamendi (Benfica/POR), German Pezzella (Real Betis/ESP), Cristian Romero (Tottenham/ENG), Nicolas Tagliafico (Lyon/FRA)
Midfielders: Thiago Almada (Atlanta/USA), Rodrigo De Paul (Atletico Madrid/ESP), Enzo Fernandez (Benfica/POR), Alejandro Gomez (Sevilla/ESP), Alexis Mac Allister (Brighton/ENG), Exequiel Palacios (Bayer Leverkusen/GER), Leandro Paredes (Juventus/ITA), Guido Rodriguez (Real Betis/ESP)
Forwards: Julian Alvarez (Manchester City/ENG), Angel Correa (Atletico Madrid/ESP) Angel Di Maria (Juventus/ITA), Paulo Dybala (Roma/ITA), Lionel Messi (Paris Saint-Germain/FRA), Lautaro Martinez (Inter Milan/ITA)
World Cup history
Winners: 2 (1978 and 1986)
Losing finalists: 3 (1930, 1990, 2014)
Leading World Cup goalscorer: Lionel Messi (11)
Leading scorer at Qatar World Cup: Lionel Messi (5)
France 4 (Rabiot 27, Giroud 32, 71, Mbappe 68) Australia 1 (Goodwin 9)
France 2 (Mbappe 61, 86) Denmark 1 (Christensen 68)
Tunisia 1 (Khazri 58) France 0
France 3 (Giroud 44, Mbappe 74, 90+1) Poland 1 (Lewandowski 90+9-pen)
England 1 (Kane 54-pen) France 2 (Tchouameni 17, Giroud 78)
France 2 (Hernandez 5, Kolo Muani 79) Morocco 0
Goalkeepers: Alphonse Areola (West Ham/ENG), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham/ENG), Steve Mandanda (Rennes/FRA)
Defenders: Axel Disasi (Monaco/FRA), Theo Hernandez (AC Milan/ITA), Ibrahima Konate (Liverpool/ENG), Jules Kounde (Barcelona/ESP), Benjamin Pavard (Bayern Munich/GER), William Saliba (Arsenal/ENG), Dayot Upamecano (Bayern Munich/GER), Raphael Varane (Manchester United/ENG)
Midfielders: Eduardo Camavinga (Real Madrid/ESP), Youssouf Fofana (Monaco/FRA), Matteo Guendouzi (Marseille/FRA), Adrien Rabiot (Juventus/ITA), Aurelien Tchouameni (Real Madrid/ESP), Jordan Veretout (Marseille/FRA)
Forwards: Kingsley Coman (Bayern Munich/GER), Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona/ESP), Olivier Giroud (AC Milan/ITA), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid/ESP), Randal Kolo Muani (Eintracht Frankfurt/GER), Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain/FRA), Marcus Thuram (Borussia Moenchengladbach/GER)
World Cup history
Winners: 2 (1998, 2018)
Losing finalists: 1 (2006)
Leading World Cup goalscorer: Just Fontaine (13)
Leading scorer at Qatar World Cup: Kylian Mbappe (5)
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