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And then there were two

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Argentina vs France preview

Five goals, three assists, a date in the World Cup final and one step away from destiny. At 35 years old, Lionel Andres Messi had his last chance to win the World Cup in Qatar. And true to his word, the Argentine has brought his best at the biggest tournament. And riding on these brilliant performances, Argentina have managed to reach their sixth World Cup final.

However, standing in Messi’s way of a World Cup title are France, who will be looking to become the first team since Brazil in 1962 to defend their World Cup title. France qualified for the final after scoring two past Morocco, the stingiest defence in the World Cup. 

The two teams faced in the previous World Cup in the round of 16 in an entertaining clash that ended with the scoreline 4-3 in France’s favour. Most of the players featured in the match will take to the field on December 18 at the Lusail Stadium. 

Messi has guided Argentina’s campaign after their shock defeat in their opening match against Saudi Arabia. From there, Argentina have grown into the tournament. While Lionel Messi has been their best player, he also had ample support from Julian Alvarez. After replacing Lautaro Martinez in the starting line-up, Alvarez has racked up four goals.

Meanwhile, France’s impressive depth has come to the fore in the tournament. Les Bleus could not call upon the services of Dayot Upamecano, who was injured, but in Ibrahim Konate, they had the perfect replacement. The Liverpool man slotted seamlessly and helped his team keep a clean sheet.

They also did not have Adrien Rabiot, but AS Monaco’s Youssouf Fofana came straight in and ensured there was no drop in quality in the middle of the park. And this depth will give them an upper hand against Argentina, who don’t boast such depth in their squad. 

 

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Argentina vs France team news 

Argentina’s main concern was Lionel Messi’s fitness as he clutched his hamstring in the semi-final against Croatia. However, it has now been reported that Messi is fine and will feature in the final. In addition, as the previous yellow cards are suspended in the semi-final, Nicolas Otamendi and Christian Romero will play in the final despite being booked.  

This means that Scaloni will likely make only one change in his starting XI, which will be left-back Marcos Acuna, who will be back after serving his suspension and replace Nicolas Tagliafico in the starting lineup. 

Julian Alvarez’s form has also been brilliant, which means he will start ahead of Lautaro Martinez, who is in poor form. 

Argentina Predicted Line up: E Martínez; Molina, Romero, Otamendi, Acuna ; de Paul, Fernández, Mac Allister; Di María, Messi, Álvarez.

France’s win over Morocco was such a disciplined effort that none of their players received a booking throughout the match. This means France will have a fully fit squad to choose from if Adrien Rabiot and Dayot Upamecano recover in time for the final. However, this will be a selection headache for Deschamps if the duo do manage to regain full fitness. While Rabiot will come straight into the playing 11 due to his experience, Upamecano could face a tough challenge, given how brilliant Konate was against Morocco.

France Predicted Line-up: Lloris; Kounde, Varane, Konate, Hernandez; Tchouameni, Rabiot; Dembele, Griezmann, Mbappe; Giroud.

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Gamechangers 

Argentina have managed to turn around their World Cup campaign after their opening-day loss to Saudi Arabia because of Lionel Messi’s impeccable form. At 35, the star is having the best tournament of his career, scoring five goals and providing three assists. 

In addition, Messi’s best show this time has come in the knockout stages, where he has struggled historically. Before the current World Cup, Messi had never scored in the knockout stages but has added three goals so far (one each in the round of 16, quarter-final, and semi-final). 

For France, their star will undoubtedly be Kylian Mbappe, a man who is already one of the best players in the world. With five goals and two assists to his name, Mbappe has been the main man leading the Les Bleus World Cup campaign. 

Playing in his preferred left-wing position, Mbappe has been wreaking havoc, especially during counter-attacks. However, the 23-year-old has also been getting ample support from his attacking partners Antoine Griezmann, and Olivier Giroud, with the former providing three assists and the latter scoring four goals.

 

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Argentina vs France Predictions 

On paper, it is no doubt that France have a better squad and bench and are favourites for the World Cup title. However, if any man can put any permutation and combination out of the window, it is Lionel Messi. With the form he is in, the man from Rosario will expect nothing less than a World Cup win, the final trophy missing from his illustrious career.

But, standing in his way is his successor Kylian Mbappe and a French team stacked with talent. France have the experience it takes to win the thing, which will help them to defend their title. 

FootTheBall predicts a 2-1 win for France. 

Saumy Deepak Tripathi
A Bayern Munich fan who is deeply in love with football statistics. Has a soft spot for goalkeepers! (well only he knows why). You’ll find him vibing on 70’s classic songs and spends an abnormal amount of time cooking.

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