With history on the line, Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi will square off in the heavyweight World Cup final between France and Argentina.
current champions With a 2-0 victory over Morocco on Wednesday, France is currently 90 minutes away from being the first team to successfully defend their title in 60 years.
The team of Didier Deschamps will enter the final at the Lusail Stadium on Sunday with confidence, but Messi has his own destiny in his farewell game on the largest stage.
Theo Hernandez and substitute Randal Kolo Muani’s goals on Wednesday at Al Bayt Stadium ended Morocco’s chances of becoming the first African or Arab team to ever go to a World Cup semifinal.
For the fourth time in seven finals, France will be defending the trophy on Sunday if they win, making them the first side to do so since Brazil in 1962.
President Emmanuel Macron gave them a hearty congrats in the locker room as cheering fans waved tricolor flags and lit flares on the Champs-Elysees in Paris.
“The final is now underway. The final round has begun “Drivers honked their horns, and anti-riot police crouched in vans lining the area while hundreds of French supporters chanted.
Thrilled France coach Deschamps, who 20 years ago captained the country to victory in Russia, said: “There is emotion and pride.
“Obviously it was another important step today and now there will be another one.
“We’ve been together for a month. It’s never easy, but here it is – it’s been a joy so far and my players have been rewarded.”
Morocco’s fairytale run in Qatar came to an end with defeat, capturing the attention of Africa and the Arab world.
“We gave the maximum, that’s the most important thing,” said coach Walid Regragui. “The most important thing is to have given a good image, to have shown the world that Moroccan football exists and that we have beautiful supporters.”
MESSI V MBAPPE
Unavoidably, Messi and Mbappe, a teammate of Messi’s at Paris Saint-Germain, will square off in the championship game.
With five goals each, the two players are tied for first place in the World Cup scoring standings, one goal ahead of Julian Alvarez of Argentina and Olivier Giroud of France.
The Copa America champions, who defeated Croatia 3-0 on Tuesday with perhaps their best performance of the competition, will see weakness in a France team that has not yet found its best form in Qatar.
Argentina’s fifth World Cup participant, Messi, has been a man on a mission, hoping to round off his career by guiding Argentina to their first victory at the competition since Diego Maradona inspired the South Americans to victory in 1986.
He displayed moments of brilliance on Tuesday to help Argentina defeat 2018 champions Croatia, and he said following the game that he anticipated playing in his last World Cup final on Sunday.
“Being able to achieve this, being able to finish my journey in the World Cups by playing my last game in a final, is something very exciting,” said the 35-year-old Argentine captain.
Deschamps promised to devise a strategy to tackle the threat posed by the “scintillating” Messi, who will try to take advantage of France’s weakness at full-back.
Dayot Upamecano, a defender, was similarly omitted from the starting lineup for the semifinal despite being listed among the substitutes.
“The air conditioning is on all the time and so we have had a few cases of flu-like symptoms but we will try to avoid it spreading,” said Deschamps.
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