France, Argentina gear up for World Cup finals as Morocco trip halted; Messi, Mbappe chasing Golden Boot
The stage is set for the 2022 World Cup final, and it’s going to be a doozy. Lionel Messi and Argentina will face Kylian Mbappe and reigning champions France on December 18 at 10am ET.
Will Messi match the feats of Argentine icon Diego Maradona while cementing his status as the GOAT? Or will Mbappe and Co. becoming the first consecutive championship since Pele and Brazil did it 60 years ago? Whatever the case may be, we can’t wait for Sunday’s fight at the Lusail Iconic Stadium outside Doha.
Be sure to check with ESPN during the tournament as we bring you the latest from Qatar. Here’s what you may have missed from Wednesday’s World Cup events, and look ahead as we count down to Sunday’s final.
– World Cup news, features, previews and more
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World Cup Final: Messi, Argentina vs. Mbappé, France
Is it Sunday already? Well, we have three full days before the World Cup final (and two days before the third-place consolation match between Croatia and Morocco), and we’ll have a lot to untangle and preview before then. But let’s take a look at some of the key points before France and Argentina hit the limelight:
SPI FiveThirtyEight has Argentina as the favorites to win the title over France, at 53% vs. 47%.
The hunt for No.3 star: France (1998, 2018) and Argentina (1978, 1986) will be competing for their third World Cup title. Only Germany, Italy (four each) and Brazil (five) have more of these two teams. Les Bleus and La Albiceleste will also be seeking their second title away from home, with both of Sunday’s finalists each winning their first title on home soil.
This will be the fourth time the two teams have played in a World Cup match. Argentina beat France in the group stage in 1930 and 1978, while France emerged victorious in the last 16 four years ago. Overall, Argentina leads the 6W-3L-3D head-to-head series.
Taylor Twellman joins SportsCenter and makes big comparisons between Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe.
Lots of star power in both squads but all eyes are on Messi and Mbappe. Not only are they team-mates at Paris Saint-Germain, but they also lead the race for the Golden Boot as the tournament’s top scorers with five goals each.
Never before have any club team-mates finished 1-2 in the race for the World Cup Golden Boot. If these two finish tied after Sunday’s game then the tie breaker will be the player with the most assists. If it is also a draw, then it is the player with the fewest minutes played.
Once on the pitch on Sunday, 35-year-old Messi will pass Germany legend Lothar Matthaus for the most World Cup appearances (26) by a male player. In scoring against Croatia on Tuesday, Messi passed Gabriel Batistuta for the most goals (11) in Argentine men’s history, with Maradona scoring eight.
Mbappe is aiming to become the second youngest player with two World Cup titles to his name. That would be an impressive feat for the 23-year-old, with only Pele (a two-time winner at 22 years old) ahead of him.
Rob Dawson praised Morocco’s World Cup performance after losing 2-0 to France in the semifinals.
Despite losing to France, Morocco still finished on a high note
Whatever the outcome, the Moroccan squad have added their name to World Cup history by becoming the first team from Africa to reach the semi-finals of the tournament. Atlas Lions also became the first team from an Arab country to reach the last four, and supported their incredible campaign around the world.
Having beaten favorites Belgium, Spain and Portugal along the way, Morocco showed that teams outside the traditional regions of Europe and South America could compete on the game’s biggest stage. That ended in a loss against France on Wednesday, undone by injuries and some unconventional defensive errors, but history has been made.
Moroccan manager Walid Reragui’s side arrived in Qatar with notable players (Hakim Zyech from Chelsea, Achraf Hakimi from PSG) but others such as Fiorentina midfielder Sofyan Amrabat and Angers playmaker Azzedine Ounahi have been breakout stars, and are likely to move to a bigger club. big in the future.
After conceding an early goal from Theo Hernandez, Morocco gave France some threat before Kolo Muani’s late goal sealed the match for sending off Les Bleus to the finals. Despite the loss, they will come back from Qatar as heroes – although that won’t be the case for a few more days. Next up is Saturday’s third-place consolation match against Croatia, which on paper may not amount to much. But considering it’s an opportunity to leave the World Cup on a high note, we can all hope for one last shining moment.
Today’s top read
Argentina’s victory was a team performance. Messi’s magic is the cherry on top
Argentina stuttered throughout this World Cup. But not in the semifinals. They beat Croatia. They don’t even need a Lionel Messi miracle.
Bayern, Inter continue their string of World Cup finals over an incredible 40 years
Here’s a shocking fact: For the 11th time in a row, over a span of 40 years, both Bayern and Inter Milan will be represented in a World Cup final.
Croatia needed Modric, but his last World Cup game was one of the worst
Croatia needed Luka Modric to be at his best but he failed to do so vs. Argentina. The World Cup will miss his talent as he steps down for good.
News and notes
After a disappointing World Cup and quarter-final exit to Morocco, Cristiano Ronaldo was seen training alone at Real Madrid’s Valdegratis training ground on Wednesday, sources have told ESPN. Is this a hint of his return? Or is he just keeping fit while looking for a new club? The former Real Madrid star is currently without a club after his second stint with Manchester United ended last month. With the January transfer window upon us, the football world will be waiting to see where Ronaldo will go next.
The final report from the NWSL/NWSLPA investigation indicated that misconduct continued in the National Women’s Soccer League, a year after reports of coercion and sexual harassment by coaches. “Indifference, neglect and concealment made the abuses worse,” investigators wrote in the report, which was released on Wednesday. “During this investigation, the Joint Investigation Team received reports of ongoing misconduct at more than half of the League’s clubs,” they added. These reports add to the impression that the NWSL and USSF are unable to protect players, from abuse or retaliation for reporting misconduct.
The wife of the late Grant Wahl confirmed that the football journalist died of an aneurysm while covering a World Cup game. “Grant died of a rupturing, slowly growing, undetectable ascending aortic aneurysm with hemopericardium,” she wrote in her husband’s Substack. “There is nothing evil about his death,” he added. Wahl worked for Sports Illustrated and later launched his own newsletter, “Fútbol with Grant Wahl,” and a podcast with Meadowlark Media.
What is next
Croatia vs. Morocco (10am ET): The two teams will face each other for the bronze medal at the 2022 World Cup.
Argentina vs. France (10 a.m. ET): Classic match on paper. Will France defend their title or can Messi finally add a World Cup trophy to his cabinet?