DOHA ( Associated Press) – Lionel Messi’s last chance. Kylian Mbappe playing to emulate Pele. Third world champion star for Argentina and France.
The attractions of Sunday’s final are attractive by definition like few others in the 22nd edition of the tournament.
Here are five things to know about the finale:
Is Messi the best footballer ever? The debate will go on forever, as there is no definite answer. Some – especially the younger generation – think so. Others point to Pelé and Diego Maradona, especially because they won the World Cup. Which is why, for many, Messi needs to lift the cup this Sunday alongside Pele and Maradona in the pantheon of all-time best, although the pecking order will always be a matter of personal taste. The Argentine divide between Maradona and Messi would continue. Messi’s display of talent and patience in Qatar has drawn increasing parallels with what Maradona did when he set up the Albiceleste in 1986. Germany except for one chance which he sent through in the second half. Will he be able to take advantage of this opportunity in his last World Cup?
Double of MBAPPÉ
The Champions League, the most important trophy at club level, opposes Mbappe, but he is one win away from winning consecutive World Cups at the age of 23. He would be able to emulate Pele’s feat by winning his first two World Cups. He is soccer’s new superstar, the leader of a crop of talent after Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo’s 15 years of absolute dominance. If Mbappé is crowned on Sunday at Messi’s expense, it will indeed be a regime change.
Both Argentina and France are looking to win their third World Cup. The winner would be fourth on the all-time list behind Brazil (five), Germany and Italy (both with four). Three of the German titles were won by West Germany (1954, 1974 and 1990). A win for France would confirm their status as the most dominant team of their generation, with their previous titles won in 1998 and 2018. Argentina won their titles in 1978 and 1986. Both the countries won their first crown as hosts.
Deschamps has already won World Cups as a player (1998) and coach (2018), following in the footsteps of Brazilian Mario Zagallo and German Franz Beckenbauer. But Zagallo and Beckenbauer failed to win the title twice as managers. Zagallo did it twice as a player, so he can claim to be a three-time champion. As a player, Deschamps was a supportive holding midfielder, always ready to pass the ball to more creative players around him. Pragmatism has also been an answer to his style as a coach. The French teams at the 2018 and 2002 World Cups have been characterized by a compact defence, which hurts their opponents on the counterattack and which is unforgiving against the opposite goal. In Russia four years ago, France averaged 48% possession in their games and six shots on goal per game. In Qatar, France – battered by injuries to key players ahead of the tournament – have not been the brightest team, but have been the most dominant. Deschamps said, “I’m not the most important person, it’s the French team.”
Four players make it to the final with a realistic chance of winning the Golden Boot, an award given to the top scorer at the World Cup. Of course Messi and Mbappe are among those who have scored five goals so far, one more than Argentine winger Julian Alvarez and French centre-forward Olivier Giroud. According to tournament rules, if two or more players score goals and have played the same number of games, the one with the most assists will receive the award. FIFA’s Technical Study Group will decide what is included in the assistance. Of the four in the race, Messi leads with three assists, one more than Embappé. No one has scored more than six goals in a World Cup since Ronaldo scored eight for Brazil in 2002.