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Messi v Mbappe: PSG pals set for World Cup final
The stars on beIN set to light up the World Cup final
Messi is already set to make history in football's showpiece match. It is up to France to ensure he does not also take home the trophy.
The 35-year-old Messi, in likely his last World Cup match, will set the outright record for finals appearances (26) when he gets his second shot at football's ultimate glory.
The Argentina captain was part of the team defeated 1-0 by Germany in the final eight years ago. Its title tilt at Russia 2018 ended at the last-16 stage, beaten by France.
Messi has guided Argentina through to the Lusail Stadium showpiece this time, where France is again its opponent.
Messi's curtain call. 🏟— Stats Perform (@StatsPerform) December 16, 2022
Ahead of what will be his final #FIFAWorldCup game, @OptaAnalyst uses an array of historical data and 𝙾𝚙𝚝𝚊 𝚅𝚒𝚜𝚒𝚘𝚗 to summarise the performance Lionel Messi has put on at #Qatar2022.
Read here 👉 https://t.co/DFmkOrPfps pic.twitter.com/8z2rj3yBQb
France has won only three of 12 meetings against Argentina in all competitions and lost two of three World Cup clashes, but that epic 4-3 victory at the previous World Cup set Didier Deschamps' men on course for the title.
The last time that Argentina and France met in the #FIFAWorldCup produced an absolute classic...#FRAARG #WorldCupFinal pic.twitter.com/U6o7TNQ2xA— Opta Analyst (@OptaAnalyst) December 16, 2022
Indeed, Les Bleus have won seven World Cup knockout games in succession – two shy of Brazil's record – as they attempt to become only the third side (after Brazil in 1962 and Italy in 1938) to successfully defend the title.
Hugo Lloris could become the first player to captain a team to triumphs in consecutive finals, while Didier Deschamps could become the first coach to do so since Vittorio Pozzo oversaw both Italy successes in the 1930s.
Other omens are more positive for Argentina: the last time the two World Cup finalists had both lost earlier in the same campaign – Messi and Co. were stunned by Saudi Arabia, while France lost to Tunisia – the Albiceleste beat the Netherlands to the 1978 title.
Cesar Luis Menotti, in charge of Argentina in 1978, was the last coach younger than Lionel Scaloni to lift the World Cup.
But it is the other Lionel who is understandably hogging the limelight.
Messi would be a popular winner just about everywhere – except in the country where he plays his club football with Paris Saint-Germain.
"We are the team of France in the final of the World Cup. We fight for our team, our country," said Ousmane Dembele of the possibility of he and his team-mates playing the role of party poopers.
"All the players and the French want to win the World Cup and bring back a third star. It would be good for his career if Messi won the World Cup, but we also want to win the World Cup.
"Every football player wants to win the World Cup. He has had a great career and he lacks this trophy, but we represent our country.
"We want to win the World Cup. I hope France will win this World Cup."
Dembele also spoke of the importance of France keeping the ball away from Argentina's "exceptional" talisman, someone he knows well from Messi's time at Barcelona.
Antoine Griezmann, another of their then Barca team-mates, may have a key role to play in that sense, although his new posting in midfield has done little to slow his productivity in the final third.
Griezmann has created more chances (21) than any other player at this World Cup.
He has been vital to France's tournament-leading non-penalty expected goals total of 11.9, although Argentina has allowed just 5.7 shots worth 0.4 xG on average in Qatar – two 2022 lows.