Ladies and gentlemen, mesdames et Messieurs, damas y caballeros, the World Cup Finals is finally upon us!!! And as picture-perfect fate would have it, we have a magical, incredible dream game served before us in a feast of football splendor.
It is Argentina versus France in a game that features 2 of the biggest stars of the game today. Argentina’s Lionel Messi vs France’s Kylian Mbappe. This generation’s best in football against today’s upcoming best. Head-to-head. This will be a sight to see. Messi’s skill against Mbappe’s speed; Messi’s guile against Mbappe’s grace. Experience goes against youth. Messi in the sunset of his glorious career, Mbappe in the sunrise of a beautiful one. And as fate would have it, both are co-leaders in the race to win the Golden Boot (most goals in the tournament) with 5 goals apiece in this tournament. Which would you rather watch? A golden sunset? Or a sunrise and the coming of a bright new day? Aren’t we glad we have the honor to witness both?
And there’s more. France, the reigning World Cup champs against Argentina, proud holders of the American (Copa America) Cup. This will be a battle testing Euro ball efficiency and structure vs American flair and passion.
Argentina has reached the Finals 5 times previously, and won it twice. That’s 2 out of 5. Their style of play is more creative, more physical and more on the offense, with no less than that wily wizard Messi leading the attack. There is more urgency for this Argentinian side as this will be Messi’s last World Cup, his last opportunity to win that elusive title not yet in his long list of achievements. Argentina will be powered by emotion, by a strong desire to give their football legend, Messi, a grand send-off as he rides off into the sunset.
But there is more to La Albiceleste (‘The White and Sky Blue’) than just Messi. There is that upcoming star Julian Alvarez, who is himself a candidate for the Golden Boot with 4 goals, and a strong midfield line with Enzo Fernandez and Rodrigo DePaul who are both vital in the transition. And then there’s their super-goalie, Emi Martinez, who jealously guards that goal as if his life depended on it. He will be the most important man, should the game go to the penalty shoot. Surely, they will rely on Messi to be central to their execution, but this team is loaded in every position. Vamos, Argentina!!!
Allez Les Blues!!! France has been in the World Cup finals thrice, winning it twice, and are the defending champions. France is that well-oiled machine that can best epitomize the European style of play. Unlike Argentina who will always to play win, France will play not to commit mistakes. Let the other team commit their mistakes. The Frenchies are less emotional, they are more balanced in the offense and defense, they love to play without the ball. And then they will pounce on you like a panther from the dark. Mbappe is one such sneaky panther with that explosive speed and the graceful gallop. Mbappe, the wonder boy who at only 19 years of age, was key to the 2018 World Cup title for France. This French side has made it their collective mission to be the first repeat champion in this prestigious World Cup since Brazil won it consecutively in 1958 and ’62, with the legendary Pele. Incidentally, Mbappe joined Pele in 2018 as the only other teenager to have scored a goal in the World Cup Finals. If France wins this, Mbappe joins Pele as a rare repeat champion as well.
But there is certainly more to Les Blues (‘The Blues’) than Mbappe as well. There is Olivier Giroud, also a candidate for the Golden Boot with 4 goals to his credit. And then there is that pesky Antoine Griezmann, who many football fanatics believe is the most important piece in the French machine. Griezmann is a leading candidate for the Golden Ball (best player in the World Cup Finals). France is oozing with talent in practically all positions. And they have Hugo Lloris, himself a world-class goaltender, and the team’s acknowledged captain since 2012. Like Argentina’s Martinez, he is a strong candidate for the Golden Glove award (for the best goalkeeper in the tournament).
When these 2 football heavyweights collide this Sunday December 18, the whole world will stop to watch with bated breath. It is not just about Argentina vs France. It is the South American style vs the European structured system; it is passion versus persistence; it is the heart vs the head. In fencing, it is the Argentine saber against the French epee. It is all that, and so much more.
Can Argentina gift Messi with a grand farewell performance that will cement his place as the greatest player of this generation? Or will France win a second consecutive championship that will tie them with Brazil, and Mbappe with Pele?
My choice? Youth trumps experience. France to win 2-1.
Who do you think will win it all? Please share your views on the comments section down below, and why. Your comments will be most appreciated.
For a clearer view, just click on the pics. Cover photo courtesy of ClutchPoints. Other photos, courtesy of Sporting Life, SB Nation, Planet Sport, Goal.com, Yorkshire Post, The Indian Express, Skysports, Sports Illustrated, Vietnam Posts, Marca, Sporting News, BBC, Mundo Albiceleste.