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Argentina vs France: What to expect from a World Cup final for the ages

Argentina vs France: What to expect from a World Cup final for the ages

Article by: Mickey

Mon, Dec 19.22

Argentina vs France: What to expect from a World Cup final for the ages

Unless you’re a seasoned pundit or quite literally paid to write about these things five days a week, digesting 64 matches and 6000+ hours of football in the space of a few weeks is enough to give induce a state of burnout in even the most passionate football fan (and given you’re reading this article, we assume you fall into this bracket). And even though you may have been engrossed as we were by the knockouts and left sleep-deprived by absorbing every minute of group-stage action that you could, with the final now looming, it’s worth stepping back and conducting a brief sitrep on what promises to be one of the most historic World Cup finals ever - one that promises not only storylines galore (we don’t need to explain the Messi vs Mbappé factor here), but a potentially fascinating game of football. After all, that’s what we’re all here for, right?


How each team might set up


Argentina’s tactical evolution throughout Qatar 2022 - starting, of course, with a historic defeat against Saudi Arabia that had pundits around the world writing them off - has perhaps been the most interesting of the entire world cup. But despite perhaps making their road to the final look harder than it could have been, La Albiceleste seems to have finally struck that elusive balance between the mercurial Messi and getting the best out of the talent that surrounds him. 


A team that has very much grown into the tournament, Argentina spent most of the group stage figuring out its ideal structure, harnessing the qualities of its midfield to provide a balanced attacking side that makes the most of every second it has on the ball. Patient in its build up from the back, Argentina is a team that likes to pick its moments in transition, but also one that can call upon a diverse array of characters to create chances at opportune moments - whether it be the individual brilliance of Messi or Julian Alvarez’s ability to perpetually find himself in the right place at the right time.


France, on the other hand, have been an easier team to read throughout the tournament, and perhaps importantly, one that seems adept at shifting its style to suit whatever situation the game presents. As comfortable channelling the ball down the side through its lethal pair of fullbacks as it is relying on the creative magic of Kylian Mbappé, Les Blues are among the most dangerous attacking forces we’ve seen this World Cup, if one that’s arguably a little cautious at times. Interestingly, despite having a back line and midfield where it’s hard to ascertain who might even start each game, it has been their defensive solidity that has seen games out for them - as we saw in the way they saw out their semi-final against Morocco.


The players to watch


Mbappé vs Messi


A legacy battle that requires no introduction, the dual attackers and PSG team-mates will not only line up directly against each other at kick-off, but play relatively similar roles for their respective sides - namely, winning the game through sheer individual brilliance. Both strike fear into the hearts of defences for different reasons; Mbappé for his lightning speed and fearlessness, and Messi for his elusiveness and generational skill. With one looking to cement his status as the all-time greatest and the other looking like a future entrant into that conversation, and there’s a distinct feeling that this could be an era-defining match for both - and for football as a whole.


 


Enzo Fernandez


Standing alongside Jude Bellingham as the standout midfield talent at this World Cup, the 21-year-old Benfica talent has installed himself as perhaps Argentina’s most important player whose first name doesn’t begin with an L. Instrumental in progressing the ball, Fernandez is more often than not the conduit in Argentina’s link-up play. A quick glance at this passing network will tell you everything you need to know - and why teams like Liverpool are suddenly so interested in him.


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Antoine Griezmann


The ‘how underrated is Antoine Griezmann?’ conversation crops up seemingly every World Cup, and alas, he’s done it again. Griezmann has once again reinvented himself and put himself at the very centre of France’s best performances throughout the tournament. In fact, there’s a strong argument to be made that they probably wouldn’t be in the final without him. Despite a relative lack of gametime thanks to one of the strangest contract situations we’ve seen in recent years, Griezmann has somehow rebranded himself as a manager’s dream hybrid between number 10 and number 8, pressing to win back the ball after attacks, and providing a vital link between France’s pacy fullbacks and clinical attackers. He has the joint most assists in the tournament, the joint-most passes into the box, and the second-most ball recoveries inside the final third. He is, quite literally, everything, everywhere all at once for this side.


 


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