AL KHOR, Qatar – The 2022 World Cup has kicked off amid controversy. It started with a night on Qatar here at the Al Bayt Stadium, then quickly reversed. It pushed Argentina to the brink after less than 48 hours, followed by Belgium and Germany shortly after. It continued, until the semi-finals, with Morocco and Croatia – and that, on Tuesday and Wednesday, at the feet of the two giants, is where it ended.
That’s where chaos got in the way of order.
And that’s where beautiful and inspiring underground stories lead to a clash of titans.
It will be Argentina and France, Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappé, after the French beat Morocco on Wednesday. It will be a dream finale in a futuristic city of zero in a cavernous stadium emerging from the desert. It still gets a little weird and goofy, a little uncomfortable and morally confusing, but thanks to me, it’s going to be filled with great storytelling. It seems almost desperate.
It will be a war of continents and souls and generations. Or a torch will be passed, from the GOAT to the first potential challenger to his throne; or that one The GOAT will be executed. Mbappé, who has achieved more than perhaps anyone since Pelé before the age of 24, is on his way to breaking “all the records”, as friends and French coaches have said, but Argentina can stop them.
The 23-year-old Frenchman did not score in Wednesday’s semi-final, but in a few moments, in a few seconds, he showed why he is so feared. He overpowered the Moroccan defenders without the ball. He also collected them, pushed past them and drove his turbo jets. He even channeled Messi’s magical dribbling to set up France’s second goal.
For all the inevitable talk about individuals, though, about two of the most talented soccer players on the planet, this will be team against team, unit against unit, sharp young coach against sharp World Cup-winning coach. .
“It’s not just Messi in that team, is it,” France striker Olivier Giroud said on Wednesday. “They have great players who also work for the team.”
Four years ago, when these two teams met in the round of 16, they was only Messi – which is certainly a growth, but his surroundings were a mess of Argentines. The French remember that game; head coach Didier Deschamps recalls how Messi surprisingly played as a striker; Giroud recalls that N’Golo Kanté, the ever-ubiquitous French midfielder, “was all game, on [Messi’s] back.”
But “four years ago, things were different, of course,” Deschamps said. Four years later, Messi is reinvented and moved into a more flexible role.
“Messi has been in fantastic form since the start of the tournament,” said Deschamps.
“Every team Messi is in is a completely different proposition,” said French forward Antoine Griezmann – who, along with his teammates, has been following Argentina throughout the tournament.
“I mean, he’s an incredible player,” Giroud said. “But we’re not going to let him enjoy the best night he can have. We want to win this game, we want to win the next World Cup. And we’re going to try everything to stop him.”
And while they don’t have Kante, Paul Pogba, or any of the injury-hit 2018 regulars, they have an almost ideal mix of kids and owners. They have Aurelien Tchouameni, an impressive, very talented midfielder who plays in place of Kante a bit. And they have 2018 winners to help guide him and other World Cup first-timers.
Griezmann remembers crying four years ago after destroying Belgium in these semis. “And I think now, I’m more focused,” he said Wednesday after the rounds. “I am already looking forward to Sunday’s final. I try to keep my feet on the ground.”
What they may also have, unfortunately, is a widespread virus. Adrien Rabiot and Dayot Umpemecano, starting in midfield and defense respectively, missed the game against Morocco while battling flu-like symptoms. Deschamps noted that Kingsley Coman was also unwell.
“We are taking all precautions, we are trying to prevent it from spreading,” he said. Rabiot stayed at the team hotel instead of going to Wednesday’s game. “But viruses are, of course, contagious,” he added.
However, France has enough depth to get away. Argentina also has a lot. Together, they have all the ingredients to make for the ages, the most memorable of the 21st century.
The tournament as a whole was memorable. The conflict has not disappeared and will not disappear; that legacy of event. But ya ball, in a vacuum, excited. It presented drama at every stage; she presented Saudi Arabia and Iran, Japan and Costa Rica, Tunisia and South Korea and Australia. It is very sad.
Now it will end as always, with Argentina or France, one of six nations to have won the tournament twice. It will end with great fanfare and history, either a title for Messi or a second in a row for France, who will become the first back-to-back champions since Pelé’s Brazil in 1962. It will be very messy and messy. , and yet, at the same time, it is simple.
“Both teams are playing a better team than they have played so far in the tournament,” Deschamps said. “It will be up to the key players to make a difference. Maybe a team that makes fewer mistakes. … Whoever does that, will win the match.”