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PREVIEW: Argentina chase glory, revenge as France seek World Cup dominance

The 2022 World Cup final will take place at the Lusail Stadium on Sunday as reigning champions France lock horns with Argentina.

The French team is gunning for a third World Cup crown after lifting the trophy in 1998 and 2018, whereas the Argentines are hoping to win again after past successes of 1978 and 1986.

More importantly, the Argentines will be hoping to get their revenge on France who defeated them 4-3 in the Last 16 of the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

ARGENTINA’S JOURNEY TO FINAL

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Argentina’s path to the World Cup final has been filled with highs and lows, starting with their surprise loss to Saudi Arabia in the group stage.

The last time Argentina reached the final was in 2014 when they lost to Germany despite the good form of Lionel Messi.

There is no getting away from the fact that Lionel Scaloni’s team has managed to avoid most of the pre-tournament favourites en route to the final.

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The South Americans started the competition with a 2-1 defeat to Saudi Arabia. They bounced back to beat Poland 2-0, while their last group game against Mexico ended in their favour.

In the second-round game, the Aussies missed a number of chances which could have put the game to bed but the Argies managed to secure a 2-1 victory.

The biggest test they faced came against the Netherlands in the last eight, when they ran out 4-3 on penalties after the game ended 2-2.

La Albiceleste advanced to their sixth World Cup final courtesy of a 3-0 semi-final triumph over Croatia, as Julian Alvarez struck twice following Lionel Messi’s penalty.

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They will be banking on the duo when they face their toughest test yet in Qatar on Sunday evening.

HOW FRANCE GOT HERE

After their historic success on home soil in 1998, France were knocked out in the group stage without scoring a goal in 2002, reached the final in 2006, and were knocked out again in the group stage in 2010, in what was a torrid tournament that saw the French players go on strike.

Then came the 2018 competition which they won in style.

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Going into Qatar 2022, key players like N’golo Kante, Paul Pogba, Christopher Nkunku and Karim Benzema were lost to injuries.

But with some of the world’s best young players in their arsenal, they were able to push to the final courtesy of their incredible strength in depth.

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Despite their qualification for the finale of football’s greatest showpiece, it has not been a completely smooth journey; France needed to fight hard to overcome Australia 3-1 in their opening match before edging past Denmark 2-1 and losing 1-0 to Tunisia.

A thriller with Poland followed before they conquered England 2-1, setting up that 2-0 victory over Morocco in the last four.

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With the exception of the Tunisia game, France have relied on defensive solidity more than attacking flair, but with Golden Ball contender Kylian Mbappe and the likes of Aurélien Djani Tchouaméni, Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembele, Olivier Giroud and Kingsley Coman in their ranks, they are certainly capable of turning on the style in the final third should the need arise.

The talent at Deschamps’s disposal meant that his side was always among the favourites to lift the trophy this winter. Sunday is a huge opportunity to continue the period of dominance which could last for the foreseeable future.

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Deschamps is also on the cusp of history as he seeks to become only the second manager after Vittorio Pozzo to win the World Cup consecutively.

Team News

On Thursday, Messi did not feature in training for Argentina however his participation in the final is not in doubt as he completed indoor recovery work. Only the players who featured as substitutes or did not play against Croatia took part in the session, while Papu Gomez and Lautaro Martinez worked in the gym.

There is hope that Angel Di Maria will be fit for the showpiece after his injury problems, while both Marcos Acuna and Gonzalo Montiel will be available following their suspensions.

Centre-backs Raphael Varane and Ibrahima Konate have reportedly become the latest French players to fall victim to illness ahead of the final.

A bug has been sweeping through Deschamps’s camp in the past few days, with Adrien Rabiot and Dayot Upamecano forced to miss Wednesday’s semi-final.

Bayern Munich attacker Kingsley Coman has also been displaying flu-like symptoms and missed training on Thursday, making his availability doubtful.

Head To Head

Despite tasting defeat in their most recent showdown, Argentina still boasts of a superior record in this fixture, having won six of the 12 matches.

The remaining six meetings ended in three draws while France have managed just three victories.

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