Four unbelievable weeks. It all comes down to this.
Argentina take on France for a chance to lift the famous trophy and write themselves into football history.
For Argentina, this one might mean a little bit more, with the legendary Lionel Messi probably making his final appearance at the tournament. What a way to bow out.
The greatest ever? Sunday may just confirm that.
For France, it could mean back-to-back World Cup trophies, a feat last achieved by Brazil 60 years ago. Italy are the only other nation to lift the trophy at successive tournaments.
Fancy reliving the last few weeks? Here’s how each nation made it to the final.
Road To The Final
Argentina couldn’t have got their tournament off to a worse start. A 2-1 defeat to Saudi Arabia, ranked 51st in the world, went down as one of the biggest shocks in the competitions history and left them with an uphill battle to qualify from the group.
They quickly recovered with back-to-back 2-0 victories over Mexico and Poland to advance from Group C as winners.
Next up, Australia in the Round of 16. Fairly routine, right? Not quite. Lionel Messi and Julián Álvarez put Argentina 2-0 up before an Enzo Fernández own goal made it 2-1 and set up a tense final 15 minutes.
Aziz Behich came close to snatching an equaliser for the Aussies late on, but for a heroic last-ditch tackle from Manchester United’s Lisandro Martínez.
On to the quarter finals and a showdown with Louis van Gaal’s Netherlands. The first real test for Argentina and a match that will go down as one of the most dramatic in recent memory.
Argentina took the lead thanks to Nahuel Molina, with Lionel Messi doubling the lead from the penalty spot. 2-0 up and cruising, but there was to be a late twist.
A ball played in from the right was met by Wout Weghorst who steered it home with his head. 2-1 and game on.
Then a moment of magic with virtually the last kick of normal time. Cody Gakpo rolled a short free-kick into the feet of Weghorst, who swivelled inside the box and swept the ball past a helpless Emiliano Martínez. A late, late equaliser to take the game into extra time.
Neither team could find the net after the extended 30 minutes so it was onto penalties, with Argentina securing a 4-3 victory after Virgil van Dijk and Steven Berghuis both missed for the Dutch.
Croatia were their opponents in the semi-final. With many predicting a tight, cagey affair, Argentina had other ideas, sweeping the European outfit aside 3-0, two goals from Julián Álvarez and another from Messi.
Only France now stand in their way. Can they become world champions?
France have looked confident and assured throughout the competition. After brushing Australia aside 4-1 in their opening game, a Kylian Mbappé brace against Denmark secured them qualification from the group with a game to spare.
A heavily rotated team suffered a 1-0 defeat to Tunisia, but Les Bleus were still through as group winners.
Poland were up next in the Round of 16 and once again, Mbappé was amongst the goals. His double and a goal from Olivier Giroud sent them through to the quarters.
It was old rivals England in the quarter finals and France’s first proper test of the tournament, but they soon took the lead with a long range Aurélien Tchouaméni strike with just 17 minutes on the clock.
Harry Kane equalised from the spot 10 minutes into the second half before Olivier Giroud headed the French back into the lead. A goal that made him France’s all-time leading scorer.
Kane skied a late penalty that would’ve sent the game to extra time, meaning France marched onto the semi-finals.
The competition’s biggest surprise package awaited in the semis. Morocco, the first ever African side to make it this far. But France got the job done with a 2-0 win thanks to goals from Theo Hernández and Randal Kolo Muani.
Now, just one more win and the title will be retained.
Mbappé vs Messi
All eyes will be on these two when the teams line up at the Lusail Stadium on Sunday 18th December.
Mbappé, still early in his career and already a World Cup to his name, with the potential to be one of the greats.
Messi, already a great, if not the greatest. Now in the twilight of his career but still just as mesmerising, he’s seeking that allusive first World Cup trophy that will neatly round off a glittering career.
What makes this battle even more intriguing, both players are tied at the top of the leaderboard in the race for the Golden Boot.
With 5 goals each, who’s going to come up with that special moment to seal it for their team?
Finals are typically tight affairs and we think this will be no different. Solid shapes and risk-free football with the occasional moment of magic from the two stars.
For Messi, this may be his last shot. Can he drag Argentina over the line? Or will Mbappé and co. make it two in a row?
We believe the little no. 10 will do it, cementing himself as the all-time best in the process. 2-1 Argentina is our prediction.
How do you think this will play out? Let us know over on our socials, cop from our international shirt range here and keep it locked into @JDFootball for all the latest, where our footy expert Kyle Walker (@kylewalker115) was watching the semi-finals from the stands! Check it out 📲
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JD Football | November 21, 2023