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Preview: Argentina vs. France - prediction, team news, lineups

 

Preview: Argentina vs. France - prediction, team news, lineups

By Ben Knapton, Senior Reporter | 2d

The headline act of a sparkling World Cup 2022 programme commences on Sunday afternoon at the Lusail Iconic Stadium, as Argentina and reigning champions France strive for international supremacy in a mouthwatering final.


Les Bleus will step out onto the Lusail turf as the first holders in 24 years to participate in the final, which they booked their tickets for courtesy of a 2-0 win over African trailblazers Morocco in the semi-finals.


Meanwhile, Lionel Scaloni's men denied Croatia a second successive appearance in the showpiece event with a 3-0 victory in the final four, and the pre-match build-up has unsurprisingly been focused on one man.



A video of Lionel Messi has been doing the rounds on social media this week. Not one of his sublime strikes or awe-inspiring assists, but of a journalist waxing lyrical about the 35-year-old's timeless qualities and reminding him just how much he inspires all the boys and girls back home.


The seven-time Ballon d'Or winner has ticked nearly every box that there is to be ticked on his footballing checklist, except for the big one, and the script-writers are already busy drafting the act of Messi lifting the iconic trophy aloft in what will be his farewell World Cup match.


As eloquent as the Paris Saint-Germain attacker has been during the Qatar tournament, one man alone cannot steer his nation to the biggest sporting event on the globe. Nicolas Otamendi has rolled back the years in defence, Enzo Fernandez could become the next nine-figure footballer, and Julian Alvarez has clearly taken a few leaves out of his strike partner's book.


A penny for Argentinian thoughts when Salem Al-Dawsari's Saudi Arabia stunner flashed past Emiliano Martinez or when Wout Weghorst nearly made the impossible possible for the Netherlands in the quarter-finals, but the Copa America winners have been determined to avoid joining fellow esteemed nations Spain, Belgium and Germany on the well-stocked giant killings list.


A Croatia side who had already dumped out one of the pre-tournament favourites in Brazil were not expected to be pushovers in the semi-finals, but La Albiceleste made light work of the 2018 runners-up, thanks in no small part to their effervescent strike partnership.


Officiating controversy reared its ugly head when Dominik Livakovic was adjudged to have fouled Alvarez - Messi did what he does best from 12 yards in the aftermath - and the Manchester City man doubled his side's advantage simply by running through the Croatia lines and getting lucky with a couple of ricochets.


Messi then founded an exclusive club of players to have made Josko Gvardiol look a fool at this World Cup, twisting and turning the 20-year-old breakout star before picking out Alvarez to put the tie beyond any measurable doubt, and a sixth World Cup final is now on the cards for the 1978 and 1986 champions.


However, three showpiece events have ended in tears of despair for Argentina - including the 2014 edition - and they could now equal Germany's unwanted record of losing a joint-high four World Cup finals, but scoring two goals in every game since the opening matchday is certainly a reassuring statistic.


Only Spain in 2010 have also managed to propel themselves to World Cup glory after losing their opening match of the tournament, but Scaloni's side have not faced more than six shots per game on average in Qatar, and they will need to employ such defensive expertise lest Messi's clubmate Kylian Mbappe enjoy a field day.

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