Legacies on the Line in Lusail: World Cup Final Preview

After an incredible World Cup in Qatar to this point, all eyes will turn to Lusail Stadium one last time to determine whether Argentina or France will begin their reign as champion. For Argentina, this represents perhaps the last opportunity to get the legendary Lionel Messi his first World Cup. For France, it is a chance to cement one of the most dominant stretches of international football by becoming the first team to win back-to-back World Cups since Brazil in 1962.

The World Cup never needs added drama but given the added stakes for both squads, the stage is set for an incredible Final for football fans around the world. Let’s talk about the keys to victory for each squad.

Argentina

It is no surprise that Argentina’s attack has run through Lionel Messi. Messi currently sits tied with Kylian Mbappe in the Golden Boot race with both stars having five goals. However, Argentina’s attack is more than just Messi. Manchester City striker, Julian Alvarez has four goals of his own in this World Cup.

While Messi will be creating the opportunities for La albiceleste, Alvarez as well as fellow young Argentinian star Enzo Fernadez will be key pieces of the puzzle as well. Where Messi goes, France will surely follow – leaving opportunities for other goal scorers to capitalize on the space opened. Defensively, limiting Mbappe will be the key, though France have may weapons of their own.

The blazing fast Frenchman is exceedingly dangerous on the edge of the field so perhaps funneling Mbappe toward the center will be in Argentina’s best interest. Otamendi and Romero are solid center backs but they will have their work cut out for them against a very intimidating Les Bleus attack.

France

It is very easy to boil this game down to the star power between Messi and Mbappe. If Mbappe is given space to work with, he has shown time and time again that he will make opponents pay. However, I do believe this Argentina team will place a tactical premium on limiting that space.

Unfortunately for Argentina, the French attack doesn’t always depend on Mbappe. With Olivier Giroud at striker and Antoine Griezmann in the midfield, Les Bleus can be flexible in their approach should Argentina be too locked in on Mbappe.

As far as defensive tactics, it is obvious that limiting Lionel Messi will be the key for France. Look to Aurelien Tchouameni in midfield as a player who will be expected to close down on Messi quickly in an attempt to limit his impact on this contest. Of course, should that defense fail – the French do still have captain Hugo Lloris in goal. The Tottenham keeper has had some impressive saves through this World Cup and could be called on to make key stops for France.

Key World Cup Stats

  • France are the co-leaders of the World Cup in goals scored with 13, Argentina have 12
  • Argentina has held 58% possession compared to France’s 52% possession
  • Messi and Mbappe are each teams leading goal scorer at five a piece
  • Argentina have taken four penalties at the World Cup, with Messi scoring three. France have yet to take a penalty at this World Cup
  • Argentina and Emiliano Martinez have three clean sheets in this World Cup so far. Hugo Lloris and France have just one clean sheet, the semi final against Morocco

Prediction

While I think a large percentage of the world is hoping to see Lionel Messi finally claim a World Cup and add to his already incredible legacy, this French squad was one of the favorites for a reason. From top to bottom, Les Bleus have felt like the most complete team in the tournament.

The biggest issue France have had so far in this World Cup has been a tendency to take their foot off the gas at times. Should the French squad make this mistake against Argentina, Messi and company will undoubtedly take advantage. When these two squads met at the 2018 World Cup, France took a 4-3 thriller.

I’m expecting a similar level of excitement tomorrow but this time Argentina will claim victory. Messi finally claims a World Cup as Argentina defeat France 3-2.