A chaotic World Cup produces an era final: Argentina vs France

Khor, Qatar – The 2022 World Cup kicked off amidst controversy and chaos. It started at the Al Bayt Stadium with a night about Qatar and then quickly changed dramatically. It pushed Argentina into the abyss in less than 48 hours and quickly toppled Belgium and Germany. It goes on to play semi-finals with Morocco and Croatia – and ends at the feet of the two giants on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Chaos gives way to order.

This is where cute, inspiring underdog stories give way to a clash of titans.

Argentina will play France and Lionel Messi will take on Kylian Mbappe after France beat Morocco on Wednesday. It would be a fantastic ending, a futuristic city built out of thin air inside a giant stadium rising from the desert. It all still feels a little weird and twitchy, a little uncomfortable and morally complicated, but omg it’s going to be oozing with brilliance
France, though, has sufficient depth to weather an outbreak. Argentina has plenty too. Together, they have all the ingredients to concoct a final for the ages, the most memorable of the 21st century.

The tournament as a whole has been memorable, too. The controversy has not and will not disappear; it will taint the legacy of the event. But the soccer, in a vacuum, has thrilled. It presented drama at every stage; it offered up Saudi Arabia and Iran, Japan and Costa Rica, Tunisia and South Korea and Australia. Upsets galore.

Now it will end as it always does, with either Argentina or France, one of the six nations who’ve won the tournament twice. It will end with a gargantuan audience and with history, either a title for Messi or a second in succession for France, who’d become the first back-to-back champions since Pelé’s Brazil in 1962. It will be wonderfully complex and impossibly magnificent, and yet, at the same time, simple.

“Both teams are playing a better team than they’ve played so far in the tournament,” Deschamps said. “It will be up to key players to make a difference. Maybe a team who makes fewer mistakes. … Whoever manages to do that will win the match.”

A World Cup of chaos has yielded a final for the ages: Argentina vs. France


AL KHOR, Qatar — The 2022 World Cup began amid controversy with chaos. It began here at the Al Bayt Stadium with a night all about Qatar, then quickly turned upside down. It pushed Argentina to the brink after less than 48 hours, and soon discarded Belgium and Germany. It continued, all the way to the semifinals, with Morocco and Croatia — and that, on Tuesday and Wednesday, at the feet of two giants, is where it ended.

the,” as French teammates and coaches have said, but Argentina can put them on hold.“There is not only Messi in that team, eh,” French striker Olivier Giroud said Wednesday. “They’ve got great players who work for the team also.”only Messi — which of course is an exaggeration, but surrounding him was an Argentine mess. The French remember that game; head coach Didier Deschamps remembers how Messi surprisingly played as something of a striker; Giroud remembers how N’Golo Kanté, the always-everywhere French midfielder,”was all the game, on [Messi’s] back.”

It will be a battle of continents, vibrations and generations. Either the torch is passed by the GOAT to the first potential challenger to the throne; or the GOAT is christened. Mbappe, who has probably achieved more before the age of 24 than anyone since Pele, is on track to break “all records”, as his France team-mate and coach say, but Argentina can set them aside for now.

The 23-year-old French prince, who failed to score in Wednesday’s semi-final, showed in seconds why he was so terrified. Without the ball, he darted past the Moroccan defender. He picked it up too, pushed it against them, and turned on his turbojet. He even used Messi’s magical dribbling to set up France’s second goal.

While it is inevitable to talk about individuals, arguably the two most talented footballers in the world, it will be team to team, unit to unit, sharp young coach versus sharp world champion coach.
“It’s not just Messi in this team, eh,” France striker Olivier Giroud said on Wednesday. “They have great players and they also work for the team.”

Four years ago, when these two teams met in the round of 16, it was only Messi – a bit of an exaggeration, of course, but there was Argentine chaos around him. The French remember the game; coach Didier Deschamps recalls how amazing Messi was as a striker; Giroud recalls how French midfielder N’Golo Kante was “whole All games on [Messi’s] back”.

But “of course, four years ago it was different,” Deschamps said. Four years later, Messi will be rejuvenated and put in a more appropriate position.

“Messi has been in great form since the start of the game,” Deschamps said.

“Every team with Messi is a completely different thing,” said France striker Antoine Griezmann, who followed the Argentine with his team-mates throughout the campaign.

“I mean, he’s an incredible player,” Giroud said. “But we’re not going to let him have the best night he can have. We want to win this game, we want to win another World Cup. We’re going to do everything we can to stop him.”

While they don’t have Kante, Paul Pogba or many of the regulars who were absent due to injury in 2018, they have a near-ideal mix of kids and veterans. They have Aurelien Tchouameni, an imposing and versatile midfielder who, in a sense, is playing in Kante’s place. They have the 2018 winner to guide him and the rest of the World Cup rookies.

Griezmann recalled crying after beating Belgium in the semi-finals four years ago. “And I think I’m more focused now,” he said after Wednesday’s semifinal. “I’m already focused on going into Sunday’s final. I’m trying to keep my feet on the ground.”

Unfortunately, they may also have a virus that is spreading. Adrien Rabiot and Dayot Umpemecano, regulars at midfield and defense respectively, missed the game against Morocco while battling flu-like symptoms. Deschamps hinted that Kingsley Coman was also upset.

“We’re taking every precaution and we’re trying to make sure it doesn’t spread,” he said. Rabiot did not travel to Wednesday’s game, but stayed at the team hotel. “But of course the virus is contagious,” he added.