We’re finally here.
The final of the 2022 World Cup will see Lionel Messi’s Argentina go head-to-head with by far the toughest side it has met so far in this tournament: the defending champions, France, led by superstar Kylian Mbappe.
Anticipation is already reaching a fever pitch, as the process that began with the group stages in late November has reached its conclusion, and the field of 32 is narrowed to just two teams, each of which with a reasonable claim to be called the best in the world.
Here are the match day odds courtesy of bet365:
|Argentina vs. France||Argentina (+180), Draw (+200), France (+175)|
|Total Goals||Over 2.5 (+150), Under 2.5 (-188)|
|Correct Result (Either Team) And Both Teams To Score||(+550)|
You couldn’t ask for a better matchup in the final than this. France, which won it all in 2018, is within touching distance of reaching truly rarified air. With a win, France would become the first nation to win back-to-back World Cups since Brazil defended its title in 1962 and would also become one of only three teams (Italy also managed the feat in 1934 and 1938) to ever win back-to-back World Cups.
Standing in France’s way, however, is a team that many consider to be the team of destiny. Argentina will be vying to win its third title, adding to wins in 1978 and 1986. The South American side has also the runners-up in the tournament three times, most recently in 2014.
The dominant narrative, however, will be that of Messi. Arguably (or not) the greatest player to ever play the game, this is the magician’s last chance at World Cup glory, having missed out in bitter fashion in 2014 by losing a close-run final to Germany thanks to an extra-time goal from Mario Gotze. Messi, however, has been playing some of his best ever soccer, and is tied with Mbappe for top scorer in Qatar with five goals apiece. For many in the sporting world, rooting for Messi to finally win football’s ultimate prize is an obvious choice. The French, however, are excellent candidates to play heartbreaker.
In this clash of the titans, bet365’s oddsmakers opened their betting line To Lift The Trophy as a pick’em (identical -110 odds for both teams), but are giving France the slight edge on the three-way Full Time Result (+175). Fans and bettors of either side will be biting their nails, but this is the kind of spectacular contest that makes watching the sport worthwhile.
Argentina wins if: It keeps its emotions in check and the right bounces go its way.
Argentina is right on the cusp of doing something it has not done in nearly 40 years, not to mention delivering the one honour that has eluded Messi, who will once again be asked to play a critical role, as he did eight years ago. If he can find room to be a difference-maker, and the rest of the team martials the game wisely, there’s no reason why Argentina can’t prevail. The pressure, however, will be incredible, and the prospect of extra-time, or worse, penalties, could well fray some Argentine nerves. One mistake against this French side, and the trophy could slip out of reach in an instant.
Nonetheless, Argentina has what it takes, and with both Messi and Alvarez in fine goal-scoring form, this could well be the team that finally makes the dream come true. The margins will be razor-thin in this one, and whoever wins may well be the team that gets that extra little bit of luck on the day.
France wins if: It overwhelms the Argentine defence, and, of course, finds a way to stifle the best footballer of all time.
France has shown incredible resilience throughout the tournament; it fought tooth and nail against England, and has continually shown a fearless desire to win. Moreover, against Morocco, France proved it wasn’t afraid to go up against a deafening crowd and break some hearts.
Managing Messi, however, will be the team’s toughest task yet, and will require standout performances from the likes of Aurelien Tchouameni, Youssouf Fofana, Raphael Varane, and whichever of Ibrahima Konate or Dayot Upamecano starts.
Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele will be a major problem for Argentine full-backs Nahuel Molina and Marcos Acuna (or Nicolas Tagliafico, depending on who starts), however Antoine Griezmann may struggle to find freedom in a jam-packed midfield. Nonetheless, if France can pile on the pressure and get a lead, it may well elicit some panic in the Argentinians, who could struggle to execute a comeback.
Mismatch to watch: One candidate for a mismatch, if he starts, will be French centre-half Upamecano. Against the English, who attacked with long balls behind his back, he proved to be a major liability. He missed the semifinals against Morocco due to illness, but if he resumes his starting spot as expected, he may once again be exposed against Messi. Even if Upamecano is benched, the less-experienced members of the French backline (Jules Kounde and Konaté) could well find themselves in hot water.
Prop to watch: The Golden Boot (top scorer in the tournament) race is one of the most interesting props to play with the leading four candidates all expected to see action in the final. The two favourites are Messi (-110) and Mbappe (-105), each with five goals going into the final. However, their respective supporting acts, Julian Alvarez (+1000) and Olivier Giroud (+1000), each with four goals, are also in the running. Given the attacking talent on show, you could also consider a prop on the correct result and both teams to score, currently +550 at bet365 no matter which team you pick.