World Cup Finals Preview: France and Argentina each look to win third World Cup title in historic and highly anticipated finals

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Fabio Ferrari/LaPresse/Shutterstock (13660356bz) Doha, Qatar – sport – Soccer – Qatar 2022- Fifa World Cup -England v France – Round of 8 – Lusail Stadium. In the pic: joy France after win, Kylian Mbappé (FRA) Qatar 2022 – FIFA World Cup – England vs France, Doha – 10 Dec 2022

World Cup Finals Preview: France and Argentina each look to win third World Cup title in historic and highly anticipated finals

Finals: Argentina (No. 3) vs. France (No. 4)
When, where: Dec. 18, 9 a.m. CT, Lusail Iconic Stadium (Lusail, Qatar)

Match History

France defeated Argentina 4-3 in the Round of 16 at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, although Argentina have the better all-time record (6-3-3) dating back to the first-ever World Cup in 1930. Argentina defeated France 2-1 at the 1978 World Cup and also won 2-1 in the inaugural 1930 World Cup in Uruguay. In these teams’ last meeting in 2018, it was France who overcame a 2-1 second-half deficit by scoring three straight goals between the 57th and 68th minutes. Kylian Mbappé scored the final two goals of that match for the French in the 64th and 68th minutes, while Benjamin Pavard (57’) and Antoine Griezmann (13’, penalty) also scored in the game. Angel Di María, Gabriel Mercado, and Sergio Agüero scored Argentina’s three goals in the 41st, 48th, and 90th minutes, respectively, although only Di María is still a member of the current national team as a veteran substitute player. France’s Pavard has started just one of six matches in Qatar so far after registering six starts during his nation’s 2018 World Cup title run.

Player to watch, Argentina

Enzo Fernández, midfielder. Lionel Messi and Julián Álvarez will receive most of the publicity for Argentina heading into Sunday’s World Cup final, and for good reason – the talented striking duo has combined for 9 of 12 goals for “la Albiceleste” in Qatar, just like Kylian Mbappé and Olivier Giroud have done for France (9 of the team’s 13 total goals scored so far). The 21-year-old Fernández of Benfica, however, will play a vital part in Argentina’s game plan if they are to take home their third-ever World Cup title. Fernández made his 2022 World Cup debut as a substitute in Argentina’s 2-0 victory over Mexico on Matchday 2, and he’s actually started four straight matches since. Argentina are 5-0 in all of Fernández’s appearances in Qatar and 4-0 with him starting, outscoring their opponents 11-3 in that span.

Fernández is one of three Argentina players to have scored a goal at the current World Cup other than Messi and Álvarez, and he’s also a key factor on the defensive end. Fernández leads Argentina with eight tackles won in Qatar and also ranks second for his team in expected assists (0.73), as well as third in receptions (28), total shots (six), and total passes (367). He also ranks fourth in interceptions (3), chances created (5), and shots on target (2), according to Opta Analyst. Fernández made his international debut for Argentina in early 2022 after starring for their under-18 national team, and he’s already widely regarded as one of the best young players in all of South America. Fernández is a capable striker and is savvy with the ball in his possession. He could certainly be a key factor in setting up opportunities for his teammates here, as France will likely be keyed in on stopping Messi in the midfield. 

Player to watch, France

Aurélien Tchouaméni, midfielder. Tchouaméni, like Fernández of Argentina, isn’t likely to receive the same attention as some of his teammates, but he’ll be just as important in France clinching their third-ever World Cup title. The 22-year-old Tchouaméni of Real Madrid scored the first goal of France’s 2-1 quarterfinal victory over England, and he’s now started five straight matches for France after not playing in the team’s Matchday 1 contest against Australia. At the 2022 World Cup, Tchouaméni ranks fourth for the French in total shots (6), shots on target (2), goals scored (1), and chances created (9). Most importantly, Tchouaméni leads France by a wide margin in total passes (392 in five matches), boasts a team-best 93% passing percentage, and also paces the No. 4-ranked French in both interceptions (12) and receptions (35), according to Opta Analyst.

Tchouaméni will face the ultimate task in the finals on Sunday at Lusail Iconic Stadium as well, as he’ll be asked to mark Messi and keep him out of vulnerable areas of scoring position for the defending champions. If Tchouaméni can complete that task, and keep Messi from finding the net, then it could just be a star duo for the next decade with him and Mbappé being under 24 years old and potentially multiple World Cups ahead of them in their prime together.

Argentina World Cup history

The Argentines have two World Cup titles (1978, 1986) and three runners-up finishes (1930, 1990, 2014) to their name, with Messi leading the way for the South American nation in all-time matches played (25). Messi, the 2014 FIFA Golden Ball award winner, will make his second World Cup finals appearance in his last three trips.

This is also Argentina’s fifth finals trip since 1978, having lost to Germany 1-0 in the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil and eliminated by eventual champion France in the Round of 16 at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The “White and Sky Blues” have been in all but four World Cups, trailing only Brazil and Germany in that category. They are 2-3 all-time in the World Cup finals.

France World Cup history

The French have now won their last four semifinal matches, two of them ultimately resulting in World Cup titles (1998 and 2018), and another resulting in a second-place finish after a penalty kick loss to Italy in 2006. France have made the World Cup seven straight times since 1998 when they beat Brazil 3-0 in the finals after not qualifying from 1990-1994. Mbappé has nine World Cup goals in less than two full campaigns, putting him in second place on France’s all-time World Cup goalscorers list. Giroud is also tied for fourth place on that list with five all-time World Cup goals scored, with four of those coming here in Qatar.

France was one of four European teams to compete in the inaugural World Cup in 1930, and they have appeared in 16 FIFA World Cups, tied for sixth place all-time. Les Blues’ first World Cup title in 1998 came on home soil via a 3-0 shutout victory over Brazil in the finals at Stade de France. They have finished second place once (2006), third place twice (1958 and 1986), and fourth place once (1982). France is one of just six nations – along with Argentina – to have won multiple World Cups. They are also one of eight nations to have won the World Cup at least once. France is now 11-1-1 in their past 13 World Cup matches dating back to their 2018 campaign, with Mbappé accounting for nine of their 27 goals in that span.

What to expect

There are simply too many narratives and storylines to count here, in arguably one of the most highly-anticipated World Cup finals matches of the century.

If France win, they become the first team to repeat as World Cup champions since Brazil did it all the way back in the 1960s (Italy is the only other nation to have back-to-back World Cup titles, having done so during the 1930s). If Argentina win, then Messi would be seemingly cemented as the greatest footballer of all time, at least in this current generation of players. 

France and Argentina are two of just six nations to have won multiple World Cup titles, and the winner of this match will move into fourth place overall on that list with three, behind only Italy (4), Germany (4), and Brazil (5). Both Mbappé and Messi also head into Sunday’s finals match dead even in goals scored (5), while teammates Olivier Giroud (France) and Julián Álvarez (Argentina) are tied for second in goals scored with four apiece.

Mbappé and Messi are also tied for the current World Cup lead in total shots (25), as well as top two in total shots on target (Messi 13, Mbappé 11) and chances created (Messi 14, Mbappé 11). It’s the 23-year-old Mbappe who holds a commanding lead over Messi, however, in both non-penalty kick goals (5 to 2) and expected goals (3.46 to 1.59), more than doubling Messi in the latter category.

Argentina, on the other hand, have scored at least two goals in four straight World Cup matches in Qatar, combined with five consecutive victories, following their shocking 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia on Matchday 1 of group play. Argentina have outscored their opponents 12-5 through six matches, while France have outscored their opponents at nearly an identical 13-5 clip.

Each team has shown weaknesses in the back-third of the field at times defensively, having allowed 10 total goals combined, so don’t be surprised to see an early score here despite most World Cup finals matches historically being low-scoring ones. This game could truly be decided in the midfield via the form of both Tchouaméni of France and Fernández of Argentina, or via the magic of one-star player’s foot on the offensive end. Whether that’s Messi versus Mbappé (or Álvarez vs. Giroud) remains to be seen, although France certainly seem like the team with the least amount of pressure in this game despite their opportunity of repeating as World Cup champions.

If Messi loses this match, then 2022 will surely go down as a disappointment for many in the Argentine football world. That added pressure could be just enough for France to eke out a small victory in this one, even though their cluster injuries in the midfield could come back to haunt them. Argentina rank first of 32 nations at the World Cup in expected goals (12.2), while France sits closely behind in third place (11.9), with only Brazil’s 12.1 in between.

Argentina also rank second in clean sheets (3) and shots on target per match (6.2), while France are first overall in “big chances created” (17), according to FOTMOB. Argentina are also second in the World Cup in accurate passes per match (532.7), while France are first in both accurate crosses per match (6.7) and successful tackles per match (12.2), as well as third in interceptions per match (11.2). France also lead the World Cup field with three penalties conceded, while the aforementioned Argentines are number one in penalties earned. 

Three of Messi’s five goals have indeed come on penalty kicks, as Argentina lead the entire World Cup field with four penalty kicks awarded; the next closest nations – Portugal, Poland, and England –  each have two penalty kicks, while France surprisingly have zero. If France can limit their mistakes inside the box and defend with discipline, then it could be just enough to keep Messi from inflicting too much damage. If they can keep from fouling Argentina inside the box specifically and pull out a win, it will undoubtedly mark the beginning of a new generation of global soccer, with Mbappé winning consecutive World Cup titles with France and Messi having possibly played in his last for Argentina.

Chris Dell’s Prediction: France 3, Argentina 2

Final Round Schedule:

Saturday, Dec. 17

  • What: Third-Place Match
  • Who: Croatia (No. 12) vs. Morocco (No. 22)
  • When, where: 9 a.m. CT, Khalifa International Stadium (Al Rayyan, Qatar)

Sunday, Dec. 18

  • What: Finals Match
  • Who: Argentina (No. 3) vs. France (No. 4)
  • When, where: 9 a.m. CT, Lusail Iconic Stadium (Lusail, Qatar)

Related Posts:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *