Who Will Lift The Trophy?
A Battle For The Third Star: 2022 World Cup Final Preview
The final of the 2022 FIFA World Cup has been called a lot of things – most of them alluding to Lionel Messi claiming the one trophy that has eluded him – but at the end of the day, it is a team sport and these two great football nations will be fighting for a chance to win their third World Cup and have a third star above their crest.
This will be the 11th World Cup final between a South American and a European country, with the South Americans winning seven of the previous ten finals. However, Argentina are responsible for two of those three defeats to a European team – both to the Germans in 1990 and 2014 – while France are responsible for the other European win, the famous 3-0 win over Brazil in 1998.
These two teams have gone through different paths to get here. La albiceleste had to overcome an early exit scare after blowing their 1-0 lead to lose 2-1 to Saudi Arabia in the opening game, as well a penalty shootout against the Netherlands after giving up a two-goal lead late in the second half. The French haven’t had the same level of scare on the scoreboard although, in terms of performances, they have been on the receiving end of a lot of pressure when they faced the Tunisians, the English and the Moroccans.
The big story for the Argentines, as already hinted, is Lionel Messi. The PSG forward has won every single trophy in football, including the Player of the Tournament in the 2014 World Cup where he lost to Germany, no thanks to an extra-time goal to Mario Götze. The one trophy that has eluded him is the World Cup itself and now, he gets a second chance to cement his legacy as the greatest player the game has seen by bringing Argentina it’s first World Cup in 36 years.
While Argentina’s attack might be taking the headlines, their defense has been equally impressive as they’ve given up just 2.47 xGA across their six games – an impressive record compared to the 7.37 xGA that France have endured up until this stage. However, both teams have given up 5 goals apiece, which could mean the Argentines’ opponents have been more clinical than the French’s.
The French wouldn’t be easy to get past. The World Cup holders will be appearing in their fourth final in seven tournaments – by far the best performers in that period. As they try to become only the third nation to win back to back World Cup titles since Italy (1904 and 1938) and Brazil (1958 and 1962), Kylian Mbappé is once again leading the charge for Les Bleus and has been deserving of every praise he’s received. He’s scored nine goals in two editions of the tournament and is just seven goals away from equalling Miroslav Klose’s record of sixteen World Cup goals. At just 23-years-old, there’s a very good chance that he might.
In terms of cautions, the Argentines have been way more aggressive than the French, as most would expect. The reigning World champions have been one of the most disciplined sides in this tournament and have picked up just five yellow cards in six games. Argentina, meanwhile, are on the other side of the divide and have twelve bookings so far, making them the third most carded side in the Qatar World Cup behind Saudi Arabia and Netherlands.
Besides the battle for the World Cup trophy, this game would also feature a battle for the Golden Boot, with both Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappé locked on five goals. Lionel Messi – who until this tournament had not scored in the knockout stages of a World Cup – has scored in all three of their knockout games to add to his two Group Stage goals, while Kylian Mbappé – who scored five times in his first four games – has not scored in his last two games. These two PSG teammates will have this as a secondary focus as they head into Sunday’s final, but we must keep an eye on Julian Alvarez and Olivier Giroud who are both on 4 goals and are more than capable of scoring braces to leapfrog their way to the top of the chart.
Head To Head
These two teams have met just four times in their history, which is rather unusual for two of the game’s heavyweights. Argentina had won the first three meetings, but their most recent clash saw the French come out on top in the Round of 16 at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Antoine Griezmann, Benjamin Pavard and Kylian Mbappé (2) were on the scoresheet for France, while Nicolas Tagliafico, Gabriel Mercado and Sergio Aguero got the goals for Argentina.
- 30th July, 2018: France 4 – 3 Argentina (World Cup)
- 11th February, 2009: France 0 – 2 Argentina (Friendly)
- 6th June, 1978: Argentina 2 – 1 France (World Cup)
- 15th July, 1930: Argentina 1 – 0 France (World Cup)
Argentina: The South American champions have bounced back from their opening game loss to Saudi Arabia by winning 5 games in a row. Since the loss, they have scored 2 or more goals in each of their 5 wins. World Cup Form: L-W-W-W-W-W
France: After 5 tries, the defending champions finally kept their first clean sheet of the World Cup in their 2-0 win over Morocco in the semi-finals. In each of their 5 wins, Les Bleus have also scored 2 or more goals. World Cup Form: W-W-L-W-W-W
Lionel Messi (Argentina): The Argentine icon leads the tournament in shots (27) and chances created (18) while jointly leading in goals (5) and assists (3). To be both the best creator and scorer says a lot about how outstanding he has been in Qatar. Argentina has been awarded four penalties in their six games so far and Messi has scored three of those, with Poland’s Wojciech Szczęsny saving the other. It is arguably the best individual performance at a World Cup since a certain Diego Maradona in 1986, and he’ll be hoping to have a similar ending.
Antoine Griezmann (France): Kylian Mbappé might be the biggest name for France, but Griezmann has proven to be key to their success in this World Cup. In the 2018 FIFA World Cup, he was Les Bleus’ joint top scorer (4) as they lifted the title. This time around, he’s been asked to play in an unfamiliar role in the midfield due to Paul Pogba’s absence, and he has been nothing short of phenomenal. He has brilliantly helped link midfield and attack, while also coming back to help the defense when they were under pressure in games against England and Morocco. He leads the team in crosses (37) and assists (3).
Expected Starting Line-Up
Argentina: E. Martinez; Molina, Romero, L. Martinez, Otamendi, Acuna; De Paul, Fernandez, Mac Allister; Messi, Alvarez
France: Lloris; Kounde, Varane, Upamecano, T. Hernandez; Tchouameni, Rabiot; Dembélé, Griezmann, Mbappé; Giroud
/ 10 months ago
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