World Cup 2022: Final team news for Argentina vs France as Di Maria starts
Messi's magical boots
Hoy más que nunca, la ⚽ siempre al 🔟 pic.twitter.com/KTshhXqOR9
— Selección Argentina 🇦🇷 (@Argentina) December 18, 2022
The officials for today's game
Polish referee Szymon Marciniak has been selected by Fifa referees’ chief Pierluigi Collina as the World Cup final referee for France against Argentina in Doha today.
Telegraph Sport reported earlier this month that the 41-year-old was the favourite and has been selected ahead of Mexican César Ramos who took charge of the semi-final between Morocco and France. Another contender, American Ismael Elfath, was ineligible for that game because of his Moroccan heritage – the Major League Soccer referee moved from Morocco to the US at 18.
Marciniak has taken charge of France against Denmark and Argentina’s Round of 16 tie with Australia thus far. He missed Euro 2020 after doctors diagnosed him with tachycardia, a condition where the heart beats abnormally fast. He is a regular Champions and Europa League referee and was also one of the officials in the Fifa Arab Cup test event in Qatar one year earlier.
Speaking to Fifa in-house media, Marciniak said: “I had a difficult time one and half year ago with tachycardia. In the beginning it was very difficult for me. I had to stop. I missed the European championships which for a referee at their peak age was a terrible feeling.
“Sometimes I think life takes something from us to give you back double happiness and I can say I’m a great example of this. Only me and my team know how difficult this was. [As for the game] there are so many big stars, anything can happen so concentration, concentration and more concentration. There can be no relaxing for one second.”
Marciniak’s two assistants are Pawel Sokolnick and Tomasz Listkiewicz and for the latter it is the continuation of a family tradition. Listkiewicz’s father Michael was the linesman for the 1990 World Cup final between Argentina and West Germany in Rome in the days of mixed nationality teams of officials. He has since served as president of the Polish football association.
A Scotland fan at Lusail Stadium
Scotland fan at the Lusail Stadium where the World Cup Final will be played today 🏴 pic.twitter.com/XTaBo8biKn
— Scottish Football Away Days (@days_scottish) December 18, 2022
Pictured: Fans inside the stadium
Big prize money
The World Cup champions will earn £35 million in prize money for their soccer federation while the losing team in the final will get £25 million from a Fifa prize fund of £362 million.
Not all the money goes to players, but they are expected to get a good chunk of it. France players such as Kylian Mbappe are in line to be paid a bonus of 554,000 euros (£283,000) by their federation for winning the final, French sports daily L'Equipe reported.
Third-place team Croatia earned £22 million in prize money and Morocco, which ended up in fourth, will be paid £21 million.
Beckham shares his verdict ahead of the final
Argentinian commentary of Messi's great assist in the semi-final
Argentinian commentary hits different 👌🇦🇷#BBCWorldCup #BBCFootball pic.twitter.com/xxX1KPXyt2
— Match of the Day (@BBCMOTD) December 18, 2022
The French dressing room
The dressing room is ready for les Bleus ahead of the 𝗪𝗼𝗿𝗹𝗱 𝗖𝘂𝗽 𝗳𝗶𝗻𝗮𝗹 🔥#ARGFRA | #FiersdetreBleus pic.twitter.com/VIUlHtF8LE
— French Team ⭐⭐ (@FrenchTeam) December 18, 2022
Pictures: Fans arrive at Lusail
Kylian Mbappe has everything to become greatest of all time
Like no other match, the World Cup final offers immortality. This is the place not simply to write your name in the record books, but to carve it on the public imagination. Here, at the pinnacle, the opportunity to be forever remembered is unsurpassed. For Lionel Messi, this is the last chance to grab the final piece in the jigsaw, proclaiming him the finest who ever lived.
Unless a World Cup winners’ medal sits on a player’s CV, so the argument runs, they cannot legitimately be claimed as a candidate for the title of all-time best.
The thing is, pitched against him at the Lusail Stadium will be a player who already has that accolade in the bank. Unlike Messi, Kylian Mbappe has not won the Champions League and his titles have been gained in France, a slightly better remunerated farmers’ league. But already he is a master of the World Cup; he won the big one four years ago in Russia.
Mbappe has within him the wherewithal to outstrip Messi and become recognised as the finest of all time. As with his Argentinian opponent – and club-mate – to watch him live in action is to be blessed. He has the same magical ability to change a game in a split second. With Messi, it might be in a mazy dart of a dribble. With Mbappe, it is when he applies the afterburners to leave an opponent gasping for air.
You can read Jim White's piece here.
French brace for final
French shopkeepers boarded up stores on Paris' Champs Elysees avenue for potential celebrations while the capital's metro covered up the name of the "Argentine" station in preparation for Sunday's World Cup final.
France play Argentina in Qatar later on Sunday, with both nations seeking a third trophy.
"I'm sure that France is going to win, it's a close-knit team with a young spirit and they have the potential to win," said Xavier Grand-Jacquot in a wintry Paris. "It's a spectacular team and they're going to go all the way."
The Paris Metro temporarily renamed the "Argentine" underground station "France", covering up the name with "Allez les Bleus" (Go the Blues) banners.
"For History," weekend newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche exhorted the French, for whom a win would make them the first back-to-back champions since Brazil in 1962.
The Interior Ministry said 14,000 police were deployed across France with 2,750 in Paris alone to keep celebrations from getting out of control.
Stores along the elegant Champs Elysees, likely to be the centre of celebrations in case of victory, shuttered up windows as a precaution.
"Let's do it again?" President Emmanuel Macron, in Doha for the final, tweeted with a video of post-match locker-room festivities after France beat Morocco in the semi-finals.
A look back at Messi in the semi
Will Messi put in a #WorldCupFinal performance of the same vintage he provided in the semi-final win over Croatia?
That'll take some beating...#BBCWorldCup pic.twitter.com/K04EnOO9BB
— Match of the Day (@BBCMOTD) December 18, 2022
Pictured: Fans in Doha
The French could have a strong side for some time
Looking at the thin smattering of French fans in Qatar, you wonder if they have grown blasé about the brutal efficiency of Les Bleus. While England has become inured to the national team’s pattern of perpetual failure, France has found predictability only in success. Never mind “56 years of hurt”, the land of Platini and Zidane has needed less than half that time to reach four World Cup finals. In Kylian Mbappe, it has a player already acquiring parallels with Pele, poised to become a back-to-back champion at 23.
Not even the virus engulfing the French camp seems capable of disrupting the juggernaut. After all, this is a team that has swept through the tournament without Karim Benzema, the Ballon d’Or winner, and whose key creative force, Antoine Griezmann, has switched imperceptibly between the roles of second striker and centre-back. On Sunday, in the still-unfinished city of Lusail, Didier Deschamps and his players are in touching distance of immortality.
Backing up a World Cup triumph is a vanishingly rare feat. Deschamps would become only the only manager to accomplish it besides Italy’s Vittorio Pozzo, a character whom the game would rather forget, given that he won his two trophies under Mussolini’s fascist dictatorship. Even if form favours the holders, the burden of history is still oppressive. The Brazilians were in prime position to defend the title in 1998 but succumbed feebly in the final, dismembered by Aime Jacquet’s France.
You can read Oliver Brown's piece here.
The Paris métro station « Argentine » has been renamed for the day… (via @hortense_crepin) #FRAARG pic.twitter.com/xKGEHQpwux
— Agnes C. Poirier (@AgnesCPoirier) December 18, 2022
A good omen for Argentina?
56.3% - Lionel Messi has been involved in 56.3% of Argentina's shots at the 2022 #FIFAWorldCup (45/80). The only player to be involved in a higher proportion in a World Cup for their team since 1966 was Diego Maradona for Argentina in 1986 (56.4%). Mirrorhttps://t.co/OKQSCbM5Gd
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 18, 2022
FA confirm Southgate will remain as England manager
The FA has confirmed that Gareth Southgate will stay on as England manager until Euro 2024, as revealed exclusively by Jason Burt last night.
The coach had been considering his future after England's defeat to France in the World Cup quarter-finals.
Croatia clinched the bronze medal yesterday with a 2-1 victory over Morocco.
That's their third top three finish since their debut in 1998.
Gvardiol opened the scoring with a wonderful diving header early on, before Dari equalised for Morocco. Orsic then scored what would be the winner with a sumptuous curling effort.
The last time Argentina won the tournament
Flashback to the 1986 #FIFAWorldCup Final ⏮️
Jorge Burruchaga wins it for Argentina 🏆 pic.twitter.com/r3pk8BILEK
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) December 18, 2022
This World Cup final could be momentous for so many reasons
Never before has the build-up to a World Cup final been so dominated by two players – one from each side – with the added dimension that they are not only club team-mates but are also the prize assets of the nation state that is hosting the tournament.
Given the final is being contested by two grand footballing countries, who have both won the greatest prize twice before, in Argentina and France, then that would appear too simplistic a statement. And yet when it comes to Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe, it simply isn't.
Even Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud, even Julian Alvarez and Enzo Fernandez – arguably their country’s best performers outside of the golden duo at this World Cup – would agree.
You can read Jason Burt's piece here.
More Messi and Mbappe stats for you
2 - A comparison between Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappé across the last two editions of the #FIFAWorldCup (2018 & 2022). Showdown. pic.twitter.com/sIANUBIlUy
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 14, 2022
A cracker in 2018
The last time these sides met was in the quarter-final four years ago. France ran out 4-3 winners in a fantastic match.
Griezmann opened the scoring with a penalty, before Angel Di Maria equalised before half time. Argentina then took the lead through Gabriel Mercado, but France replied soon after with the goal of the tournament from right-back benjamin Pavard.
Mbappe was in fantastic form, scoring two goals in quick succession, before Sergio Aguero bagged a late consolation.
If today's match is half the game, we will be in for a treat.
Mbappe on 🔥
Di Maria's worldie 👏
Pavard's ping 🎯
If Argentina 🆚 France is anything like the last time these two met at the #FifaWorldCup then we're in for a cracker on Sunday! 😧 pic.twitter.com/fgiOGzrTxM
— ITV Football (@itvfootball) December 16, 2022
As I was saying about Griezmann...
21 - Antoine Griezmann 🇫🇷 has created 21 chances in the 2022 #FIFAWorldCup, more than any other player in the tournament, also registering the highest average, with 3.5 chances per game. Engine.#AskOpta#AskOptaJosé#Qatar2022 pic.twitter.com/xNYXL9rJ7n
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) December 16, 2022
The World Cup final is a match that changes lives
It is hard to think of words to describe the emotion of winning a World Cup, as I did with France in 1998. For us, it was the perfect story. When you're a footballer you always dream of winning a World Cup. To do it at home, in Paris, was special. It's an indescribable feeling.
It was a special afternoon. Brazil were the favourites, with Ronaldo in that team. However, Zinedine Zidane's magic won the day and helped us fulfil one of our greatest dreams. The fans have not forgotten it. The pressure was enormous to play at home, with our people. We were lucky to have them close to us but we had the feeling that we couldn't fail.
My life changed completely in that moment, and a new life began. People in the street looked at you differently. It was different. I remember that the season after winning the World Cup I signed for Olympique Marseille, and every time I went to eat in a restaurant I didn't pay. Everything was free.
You can read Robert Pires' piece here.
While much has been made of today being Mbappe vs Messi, other players have been key to France and Argentina's World Cup runs.
For France, Antoine Griezmann has arguably been their best player. Playing in a deeper role than usual, Griezmann has showed off his defensive capabilities.
Against Morocco, he was always in front of the back four at the right time, making several key interceptions and winning tackles. If he hadn't had such an accomplished display, the North Africans would probably have got some more clear-cut chances.
Julian Alvarez has been strong throughout Argentina's run. He scored two in the semi-final, although the third will be remembered for Messi giving Croatia centre-back Josko Gvardiol the runaround.
Alvarez has scored four this tournament, which is a goal every 91 minutes that he's played. He's also scored with half of his shots.
If France focus too much on Messi, Alvarez could punish them.
Kylian Mbappe does not track back – it could win or lose France the World Cup final
France are preparing for another World Cup final but their victories over England and Morocco in Qatar were far from convincing.
Didier Deschamps' team triumphed in Russia four years ago with a functional approach which relied on their attacking talent producing in moments. France were dull but stable, whereas at this tournament they are hanging on by their fingertips.
This is especially true on their troublesome left flank, which is a defensive Bermuda Triangle. Kylian Mbappe is allowed to 'cheat' and not track back, the back-up left-back Theo Hernandez plays like he is on an ice rink and their team-mates are scrambling to plug the gaps.
England's Bukayo Saka tormented Hernandez before he was replaced by Raheem Sterling, while Morocco's dynamic right flank of Achraf Hakimi and Hakim Ziyech cut through France repeatedly without landing a knockout punch.
France survived on both occasions, but Argentina and Lionel Messi will target this vulnerability in Sunday's final.
You can read Daniel Zeqiri's piece here.
Argentina fans gather on eve of final
Last night, thousands of Argentina fans gathered ahead of today's big match.
They're hoping that their talisman, Lionel Messi, can win his first World Cup at the ripe age of 35.
The best place to watch the World Cup final? Diego Maradona's house
It’s common for crowds to gather outside the old house of the late football star Diego Maradona when Argentina wins at the World Cup. What’s less common is for people to be invited inside – though now a select few are getting to experience exactly that.
The house, a large two-story wood and brick building at 4575 Jose Luis Cantilo Street in Buenos Aires’ Villa Devoto neighbourhood, held the first World Cup viewing party on November 30 for Argentina’s 2-0 victory against Australia, nearly two years to the day since Maradona, a national icon and the scorer of the Fifa Goal of the Century, died at age 60.
Most recently, friends and acquaintances of the house’s current owners, Ariel Fernando Garcia, a local businessman, and his wife, Marcela Vozza, gathered together at the home to watch the semi-final victory over Croatia on Tuesday, where a large screen and tents were set up by pool in the backyard. The couple, originally from the neighbourhood, bought the house last month, not to live in it, but to preserve Maradona’s legacy.
You can read Christine Gilbert's piece here.
Macron arrives in Qatar
French President Emmanuel Macron has arrived in Qatar ahead of the World Cup final.
Macron is a big football fan and attended the 2018 final, where he enthusiastically celebrated France's victory.
He also attended France's victory over Morocco in the semi-final.
He would become the only French President to see two World Cup wins in his tenure if France win today.
Our experts' predictions
Our football writers have predicted today's result. Understandably, roughly half of them have predicted France to win and the other half have said that Argentina will triumph.
All I hope is that we have a good match, and not another final where there are no goals in 90 minutes like 1994, 2010 and 2014.
You can read our experts' predictions here.
Predict the score
Will Messi finally get his hands on the World Cup? Or will France become back-to-back winners?
This is the day
The day is finally upon us. After 63 matches and 166 goals, the World Cup final is here. And what a blockbuster clash we have in store.
We have Lionel Messi, one of football's best ever players who will be playing his last World Cup match, going up against Kylian Mbappe, the next generation's global superstar who has already won the tournament.
To make things even spicier, the two players are the leading goalscorers in the tournament, with five goals each. Three of Messi's have been penalties, but much of his great work has been creating opportunities for others, as he did in the semi-final. Mbappe dazzled in the first four games, particularly with a double against Poland, but hasn't been firing on all cylinders in the last couple of matches. Will he turn it on for the big occasion.
Argentina started off their World Cup poorly, with a shock 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia. They upped their game for the remaining two group matches, beating Mexico and Poland 2-0.
In the last 16, they managed to survive a bit of a scare against Australia to win 2-1. They scraped past the Netherlands in the quarter-finals, having squandered a 2-0 lead. Argentina struggled when the Netherlands started hitting the ball long, but managed to hold their nerve in the penalty shoot-out, with Aston Villa's Emiliano Martinez the hero.
In the semi-final, they ran out comfortable 3-0 winners over Croatia, with Messi and Julian Alvarez leading them to victory.
France have been strong throughout the tournament. They beat Australia and Denmark to reach the last 16, before a much-changed side succumbed to a 1-0 loss against Tunisia in their final group match.
They coasted past Poland in the semi-finals, before battling through a difficult encounter with England in the quarters. France did well to beat Morocco in the semi-finals, despite the North Africans dominating much of the play.