DOHA ( Associated Press) – Lionel Messi gets a glimpse of lifting the World Cup when his Argentina sets out to defeat defending champions France in Sunday’s final.
Crack has a second chance to pick up the title that is missing from his list of scrolls.
That defeat in the 2014 Brazil final, when Argentina lost 1-0 to Germany after extra time, reminds Messi of the pain of a shattered illusion.
In order not to repeat the disappointment, here are the keys to beating France in Argentina:
let messi be in charge
It has not escaped anyone that Messi’s destiny is to emulate the legend Diego Maradona and guide his team to their first world title in 36 years.
The Paris Saint-Germain striker has been in excellent form in Qatar, scoring five goals on his way to the final and providing some magical assists for his team-mates. Maradona, who passed away in 2020, also scored five goals in 1986 and was an iconic figure for his country.
Messi doesn’t dominate games during 90 minutes in the same way he did during his peak. Instead, he does it with moments of brilliance that have led many to cite him as the greatest football player of all time. He has lived up to the country’s expectations throughout his career, but has never really performed in a World Cup.
While he has a dominant past, Messi has been more impressive in this tournament than in his previous four World Cups.
Argentina fans are convinced that they will win the trophy for the third time and that there is more than Messi guiding them. Maradona, they sing, is “cheering on Lionel” from heaven.
Looking back at his team’s semi-final defeat to France, Moroccan coach Walid Regragui made a fascinating comment: “I think any country that plays France believes they are close to victory.”
“But when you are close to winning, you are really far from winning,” he warned. After putting pressure on France for a long time, Morocco eventually lost 2–0.
It was the same story against England in the quarter-finals. Les Bleus won 2–1, despite the England players’ belief that they were the better team.
There is a warning for Argentina. Both teams have felt comfortable in possession of the ball and attacking on the counter.
Perhaps the winner is the team that sticks to those tactics instead of getting dragged down and pushed too hard.
Maintaining concentration and discipline will be crucial for Argentina, especially given the threat of Kylian Mbappe’s pace when France breaks down the rival front line.
It was an exciting tournament for Argentina and their supporters lighting up Qatar. The magnificence of his celebration after each victory has been a feature.
This atmosphere, which could have affected the emotional stability of the players, has worked in the opposite way. Messi and his teammates seem to be inspired by the weight of expectations, rather than cower under them.
There is a sense that players and fans are in this together and if, as expected, Argentina’s supporters outnumber France’s at Lusail Stadium on Sunday, it could give Messi and his team-mates the upper hand.
Having said that, the Moroccan fans completely dominated the atmosphere in the semi-final against France, and still lost.