Our Predictions Ahead Of The World Cup Final
18 Dec 2022
After a month of upsets, quality, and all round entertainment, the controversial Qatar World Cup draws to a close this afternoon when Argentina face France. Both nations can make history today, as Didier Deschamps can become the first manager to guide his country to back to back World Cups since 1962. On the other side, a World Cup for Argentina and Lionel Messi would be the pinnacle of the forward’s impeccable career. Here are our predictions ahead of what is set to be a momentous occasion in the world of football:
France’s strength in depth has been one of the most impressive things about their run to the final. They lost their starting midfield pairing of Pogba and Kanté from the last World Cup due to injury, and have also had to replace Karim Benzema and Christopher Nkunku in the build up to this tournament. Those who have come in to replace them have fitted in smoothly and managed to complement their star players well. Deschamps has elected to drop Griezmann into a deeper creative role where the Atletico Madrid man has thrived. Up top, Olivier Giroud has executed his role as a target man perfectly, linking up well with Mbappé and scoring some crucial goals in the knock out stages.
They might well need all of this squad malleability in order to get past Argentina. A lot of the French camp have come down with flu and are isolating in their rooms. This comes after Adrien Rabiot and Dayot Upamecano missed the semi final against Morocco due to illness. Deschamps will be hoping that his team can drag themselves over this final hurdle, but the France manager may be forced to call on players deeper in his squad rotation if this illness becomes a factor.
Argentina have no fresh injury concerns and continue to gather momentum as we reach the business end of this tournament. Lionel Scaloni’s team have managed to elevate themselves away from their shocking loss to Saudi Arabia at the start of the tournament, and have found some real form that resulted in a comfortable victory over Croatia to make the final. Defensively they have been resolute, with the Premier League pairing of Cristian Romero and Emi Martinez between the sticks giving the more offensive players a platform to express themselves. Alexis Mac Allister has been outstanding in recent games, holding down the midfield with Enzo Fernandez as both set out to control the tempo of the game.
This game however really does feel as if it will be decided by one of two men: Messi or Mbappé. Both PSG players are at very different stages of their careers. Kylian Mbappé has already proven that he is one of the best in the world, if not the best at this moment in time. Another masterclass in a World Cup final at the age of 23 will mean that he will be spoken about in the same breath as some of the very best to ever do it. If Messi is able to get the better of his club teammate, he probably has the best CV of anyone to play the game and might well go down as the undisputed greatest of all time. At times it has felt like he has dragged this Argentina side to the final by the scruff of the neck, driving the ball forward from midfield and creating chances for himself and his forwards. Mbappé on the other hand can pop up and change a game in a split second, using his blistering pace and finishing ability to put the opposition on the back foot.
World Cup finals are normally quite cagey affairs, so I don’t expect a glut of goals to be scored in this game. This piles even more of the pressure onto the two superstars, as they will be looked to create the chance that inspires their team to victory. I believe France will see most of the ball, with Argentina looking to turn their opponents around on the counter and get them running towards their own box. This is of course also the kind of situation where Mbappé thrives, so Argentina will need to be careful about committing too many men forward.
As much as this tournament feels like it is destined to belong to Lionel Messi, I struggle to look past the strength in numbers that this French team has. Their are no real weak areas even with potential absentees, and they are well matched against Argentina’s style. I expect France to just sneak this one.
Joe Simpson’s Prediction: Argentina 0-1 France
Thomas Atkinson’s Prediction: Argentina 2-1 France
Kwabz’s Prediction: Argentina 3-2 France