Mbappe v Messi for World Cup immortality

3 mins read

Fifa President Gianni Infantino boldly claimed this week the 2022 Qatar World Cup had been the best ever, with excitement running through the duration of this tournament.

And football’s ruling body is contemplating whether the format of the 2026 World Cup in the United States, Mexico and Canada should be changed as planned.

Well, that’s an argument for another day as this tournament comes to a thrilling climax with Sunday’s titanic clash against holders France and two-time champions Argentina.

It is most probably the final that most neutrals wanted to see in what promises to be a battle of contrasting styles.

Hopefully, this game will not be decided on penalties.

It seems a long time ago now that England’s world cup ambitions flew off target with Harry Kane’s missed penalty kick against France.

England has a talented side that stood up to France, who were more clinical on the night, although the future is brighter if Gareth Southgate decides to remain in charge.

Many national team managers (Belgium, Portugal, Spain) have thrown in the towel after defeat in this tournament.

But one country that can exit with pride instead of tears is Morocco, who made Africa and the Arab nations proud by being the first team from either continent to reach a World Cup semi-final.

The Atlas Lions roared through this competition, carried by a wave of emotion, determination and brilliant supporters.

Very few games had the type of raucous backing you expect at a football game, but Morocco and Argentina brought passion to the Qatar arena.

Nobody saw Morocco upsetting the stage, but they were fearless in taking on the old established guard of world football, only conceding one goal before France sank them.

There have been tremendous games in these finals with very few dead rubbers and untold drama with emerging talents announcing their arrival.

We also said goodbye to some greats like Ronaldo, who became the benched man rather than the star turn; Hazard also called it a day after being unable to inspire the disappointing Belgians, while the ever-green Modric gracefully bowed out.

Anticipation is palpable for Sunday’s final as it pits one of the greatest players to play the game, Argentina’s Lionel Messi and the challenger to his crown, French sensation Kylian Mbappe.


Both number 10s are unstoppable in their stride, going for the Golden Boot (they have five goals each), and are undoubtedly their team’s talisman.

They carry a nation’s hopes and dreams on their shoulders but have proven the weight of expectation only inspires them to do better.

Messi has revealed this will be his last World Cup, and he wants to go out with a bang, delivering the greatest prize to an expectant and adoring nation.

In the past, Messi has been criticised for not showing enough passion for the Argentine cause with a tendency to be timid and cold.

And Argentina’s captain has metamorphosised in this tournament as a warrior who will not lay down his shield until victory is achieved.

It has been understood by the thousands of Argentines who have travelled to Qatar in their replica Messi shirts — he is their golden son.

He has arguably been the player of the tournament, replicating what Maradonna did in taking an unspectacular team to the summit of world football.

The penny has finally dropped for Argentina; they have built a team around Messi to protect him, no egos, team spirit at its finest.

Lifting the trophy will be Messi’s final piece of the puzzle, allowing him to be compared favourably with the incomparable Maradonna.

Although many would argue Messi is the greatest of all time, the lack of a World Cup winners medal counts against that argument.

Standing in the way of sporting immortality is Mbappe, who, at only 23, is a World Cup winner playing in back-to-back finals with a total goal tally of nine.

France came into this tournament with key players missing; they have relied on individual brilliance and a killer instinct in front of goal.

Les Blues come alive when they need to, although the player who knitted them together into a dominant force is the underrated Antoine Griezmann, who seems to pop up everywhere on the pitch.

Griezmann was the standout player in the triumphs against England and Morocco.

The stage is set for a fascinating final, which should produce goals and plenty of high drama.

Once the whistle blows, we will witness whether this will be Messi’s legacy or Mbappe’s World Cup.