World Cup

Messi’s Argentina in World Cup final showdown with France

Lionel Messi was preparing Argentina to meet France in the World Cup final on Sunday, hoping to cap off his record-breaking career by winning football’s top honor for the first time on his final day of the competition.

The month-long football extravaganza culminates on Sunday at Doha’s 89 000-capacity Lusail Stadium, with the eagerly awaited final kicking off at 5 p.m. South African time.

Messi, who is competing in his fifth and last World Cup, is trying to lead Argentina to its first championship since the victory in Mexico City in 1986 that was spurred on by Diego Maradona.

The prolific Kylian Mbappe and a France team that wants to become the first nation since Pele’s Brazil in 1958 and 1962 to win back-to-back World Cups stand in his way.

Messi, 35, who has won seven Ballon d’Or trophies as the best player in the world, lost the 2014 World Cup final to Germany, which was a terrible disappointment for him.

The presence of tens of thousands of supporters at each of the team’s games in Qatar has helped Argentina’s campaign.

“I am well aware that Argentina will have a lot of fans behind them,” France coach Didier Deschamps said on Saturday.

“I know Argentina, many people around the world, and maybe some French people, hope Lionel Messi could win the World Cup, but we’re going to do everything to achieve our objective.”

Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez said: “People say the favourites are France. But we have the greatest player of all time.”

Since France’s semifinal victory over Morocco, the first African side to ever make it to the last four, Deschamps has had a challenging few days.

His team has been battling an unknown virus that is thought to have so far infected five players.

Fever, stomach pain, and headaches are just a few of the symptoms that players, staff, and sources close to the French team have described.

“We are trying to take as many precautions as possible, to adapt as necessary and get on with it,” Deschamps said.

At the beginning of their final team practice before the championship game, all 24 members of his squad took the field, giving him cause for encouragement, though reporters were taken out after 15 minutes.

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