2022-12-16 · 5 min read · FIFA World Cup/Soccer
Lionel Messi of Argentina and Kylian Mbappe of France

AFP-JIJI | Getty Images

Argentina vs France, Lionel Messi vs Kylian Mbappe. The thrilling heavyweight finish that this sensational 2022 World Cup has deserved. Officially by the FIFA rankings, this is No. 3 vs No. 4, but overall, the two most deserving teams reached the end of the road.
Despite a host of injuries before the tournament started, France have been sensational, overwhelming teams with a pace and precision on the counterattack run by Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann. Add in the great form of No. 9 Olivier Giroud, and they're a formidable opponent.
Yet Messi and Argentina will be licking their chops after watching the long stretches of pressure Les Bleus faced in their semifinals against Morocco. The Albiceleste are built well to possess the ball against the France setup and deal with the pace on the counter.
So, who will lift the trophy? An enthralling, star-studded World Cup final awaits us, so let's break it down.
Argentina vs. France

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Argentina vs France team news
Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni officially has a fully healthy squad, which is a rarity at this stage of the competition after a grueling, month-long journey in Qatar. The only slight questions are the fitness of Angel Di Maria and Paulo Dybala, as the former was an unused substitute against Croatia in the semifinals, while the latter saw just 16 minutes off the bench, his first appearance of the tournament. It's been no matter, as Julian Alvarez has been outstanding in support of star Lionel Messi.
France have weathered their early injury crisis with aplomb. Les Bleus are without Paul Pogba, N'Golo Kante, Karim Benzema, Presnel Kimpembe, Christopher Nkunuku, and Mike Maignan, who all missed the tournament with pre-World Cup injuries. They then lost Lucas Hernandez to a torn ACL in the opening match. Yet, they've made use of their world-class depth, as Theo Hernandez has stepped in for his brother admirably and Olivier Giroud has been fantastic up front in Benzema's absence.
Why you should back Argentina
Argentina have felt like a team of destiny in what could very well be Messi's last World Cup appearance. The 35-year-old is tied with Mbappe in the race for the World Cup Golden Boot with five goals in six games. He's also assisted on three more goals and formed a dynamic partnership with 22-year-old Manchester City forward Julian Alvarez.
Alvarez has scored four times in his World Cup coming-out party and that 1-2 combination with Messi could cause problems for a French side that hasn't seen a lot of attacking strength on their road to the final. Harry Kane scored in the quarterfinal matchup with England and France needed some good fortune to survive England's attacking capacity, as the Three Lions actually held a 2.4-0.9 advantage in expected goals. Alvarez and Messi provide even more technical ability and pace moving forward.
Why you should back France
Les Bleus are in the final for the fourth time in their past seven appearances, and they have scored twice in five of the six matches in Qatar. The only exception is a 1-0 loss to Tunisia when they rested some stars to start the match. Mbappe has seized the reins with fellow star Karim Benzema out with an injury, and Olivier Giroud has made the most of his chance. Giroud has four goals to make him France's all-time top scorer with 53, and Mbappe's five goals in Qatar give him 33 in just 63 matches. Antoine Griezmann has 42 goals (third all-time) and 26 assists.
Griezmann and Mbappe have combined for five assists, and Theo Hernandez added a goal Wednesday to add to two assists. France has 33 shots on target while allowing 20. Morocco held the ball for 62% of Wednesday's match after France took the early lead, but they put just three of 13 attempts on net. The defense should come in with more confidence after holding Morocco scoreless, and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris' experience in back is critical. He is the nation's all-time leader in appearances with 144 and has eight clean sheets in 19 World Cup matches.
Argentina vs France Best Bet
Pick: Over 4.5 yellow cards
Odds: +106 (FanDuel)
France haven't been a team that pick up yellow cards at this World Cup (they have had five this tournament), but the game of theirs that profiles similarly to what we may see in this final is the clash with England. France was sloppy in that match and picked up a trio of cautions.
Argentina, meanwhile, are one of the most physical teams in the field. Their 12 bookings so far are joint-second of anyone in the World Cup, level with Serbia and two back of Saudi Arabia. Even in a comfortable 3-0 win over Croatia in the semifinals, they picked up two bookings, and in the quarterfinal war with the Netherlands they earned an insane nine cards. The speed of the France attack will force them into a few clumsy or late tackles.
Argentina vs France Long Shot Bet
Pick: Antoine Griezmann to assist a goal
Odds: +380 (FanDuel)
If it were not for the star power of Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann would be the frontrunner of this World Cup's Golden Ball award. Mbappe is the star of Les Bleus, but Griezmann has been the true key to their performance in front of goal.
Griezmann has 21 chances created in the World Cup so far, the most of anyone in the tournament, three above second-place Messi. His 3.54 expected assists is nearly double anyone else at the entire 2022 World Cup (Leroy Sane's 1.86 xA is second). His creativity in a new No. 8 role has been simply sensational. He was spectacular again against Morocco, and while he didn't pick up an official assist, he was a massive part of the France attack.
Argentina vs France Prediction
Money line: Draw (+200)
Against the spread: Argentina +0.5 (-225)
Score prediction: Argentina 1-1 France (Argentina to win on penalties)
There are reasons to worry about either side. France have been put under pressure for long stretches of games, and the only match they've kept a clean sheet in was the semifinals against Morocco, where Les Bleus were pummeled on both sides of halftime.
Argentina, meanwhile, have struggled at times to take their chances, and have not been as clinical as some of their score lines at this tournament might suggest.
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By: Aaron Cantin


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