Argentina reached the World Cup 2022 final with a 3-0 victory over Croatia
France booked their spot in the showpiece event by beating Morocco 2-0
Both teams will be striving to win the World Cup for a third time on Sunday
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The 64th and last match of World Cup 2022 will take place at the 88,986-capacity Lusail Iconic Stadium on Sunday, as Argentina and France go head-to-head for the right to be called world champions. As you can see from the odds above, the best online sportsbooks believe there is little to choose between the finalists.
Argentina are one of two teams still standing in Qatar, but their participation in the tournament was imperiled very early on. Their opening game did not go to plan: a 2-1 defeat by Saudi Arabia stunned the soccer world and immediately went down as one of the biggest upsets in the history of this 92-year competition.
All of a sudden, there was no margin for error. Another loss in the group phase would have seen Lionel Scaloni’s side sent home ahead of the knockouts, but they held their nerve to beat each of Mexico and Poland by two goals to nil. Their performance against the latter was particularly dominant, sending Argentina through to the round of 16 as Group C winners.
The Albiceleste then saw off Australia 2-1, surviving a late scare having looked comfortable for most of the match. Next up was a penalty shoot-out victory over the Netherlands, who forced extra time with a dramatic late goal, before Argentina beat Croatia 3-0 on Tuesday.
Scaloni’s side have grown into this tournament and they will hope they have timed their run perfectly. There is such a thing as peaking too early at World Cups; for instance, Spain thrashed Costa Rica 7-0 in their opening game but were eliminated in the round of 16.
Argentina started slowly but have improved as the action has worn on. That bodes well for Sunday, which will bring their toughest test yet.
France arrived in Qatar amid suggestions that they could be one of the flops of World Cup 2022. Recent history was not in their favor. Prior to this edition, four of the last five reigning champions have been dumped out in the group phase of the subsequent World Cup - including les Bleus in Japan and South Korea 20 years ago.
There were other concerns too. In Paul Pogba, Karim Benzema, and N’Golo Kante, France lost three probable starters to injury ahead of the big kick-off. Christopher Nkunku, a potential game-changer from the bench, was also ruled out.
Form was another reason to doubt France’s chances. They only narrowly avoided relegation to League B of the Nations League in the fall, winning just one of six games against Croatia, Denmark, and Austria. That did not bode well for the World Cup when they would have to get past teams of that caliber throughout the knockout phase.
Yet France have come good on the biggest stage of all. Even with the injuries, their starting XI is packed full of talent. And Didier Deschamps deserves great credit too. He has had to endure a fair amount of criticism over the years, but he is one victory away from becoming the first manager to win back-to-back World Cups since Vittorio Pozzo in the 1930s.
France topped their group ahead of Australia, Denmark and Tunisia, then eased past Poland in the round of 16. Their most significant win came against England in the quarters, as France just about edged out their northerly neighbor.
A 2-0 defeat of Morocco on Wednesday booked their place in Sunday’s showpiece, where Argentina await. Both nations are seeking their third World Cup triumph.
France are a curious team. In every single match they have contested at this tournament, their opponents have been able to create chances against them. Les Bleus are not particularly adept at controlling games from start to finish.
Yet in recent weeks they have always come up trumps in the big moments. In Kylian Mbappe they have perhaps the best player on the planet right now. Antoine Griezmann has probably been the standout performer at this World Cup, while Olivier Giroud has starred as a center-forward. This is a team that does not have to play well to win.
Having said all that, we fancy Argentina’s chances in the final. Bar a lapse in the closing stages against the Netherlands, they have been solid for most of the knockout phase. Lionel Messi is getting better with every game, and Scaloni has now settled on a structure that brings out the best in the legendary 35-year-old.
Will there be a romantic end to Messi’s World Cup career? Soccer has crushed dreams like his in the past, but on this occasion, we think there will be a happy ending for the Argentine superstar. Back the Albiceleste to lift the trophy, either by winning after 90 minutes, 120 minutes, or a penalty shoot-out.
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Teams: Argentina vs France
Location: Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail, Qatar
Time: Sunday, 18 December 2022, 10:00 AM EST
How to Watch: Fox Sports, Telemundo, fuboTV
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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