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Analysis: Where the World Cup will be won and lost

World Cup

🌟 #FIFAWorldCup 2022

⚽ Argentina vs France 6pm

Doha, Qatar | Xinhua | The World Cup final pits the two best teams in the World together and consequently we can expect a close match on Sunday in the Lusail Stadium when France take on Argentina.

Small margins will decide who lifts the trophy and the biggest prize in World football, and who stands at the bottom of the stairs as their rivals take the glory and here is where the World Cup could be won or lost.

For France the task is easy to say, but difficult to do. Stop Messi.

Leo Messi is the heart of the Argentina side, his pace may have dropped slightly, but his vision and ability to cut through a defense with a single pass remains intact, as do his skill on the ball, his dribbling skills and his lethal left foot.

Croatia tried to man-mark Messi out of the game in the semifinal and it was a big mistake, so what will France do?

Didier Deschamps could consider using Antoine Griezmann to try and cover Messi, but that could see arguably his best player lose much of his impact in attack.

Two other players the French need to be aware of are midfielder, Enzo Fernandez, who will sit deep and look to pull the strings of an Argentina midfield that is hard-working but not very creative, and Julian Alvarez, who has impressed in this World Cup and will finish any chance that falls his way.

It’s also important for the French to provide cover for Theo Hernandez at left back. Kylian Mbappe is France’s biggest threat, but his failure to provide defensive cover can leave Hernandez exposed and Argentina will no doubt look to exploit that side of the French defense.

Argentina right back, Nahuel Molina pushes forward well (as he showed against Netherlands) and if Messi drops to the right and Rodrigo de Paul also plays towards that side, Hernandez is going to have problems and Argentina can find a route to goal.

Argentina have two defensive issues to sort out of they want to keep a clean sheet on Sunday. Firstly, they need to stop Kylian Mbappe and then they have to frustrate Olivier Giroud.

Mbappe is the fastest player in the tournament and his ability to turn and then leave rivals trailing in his wake is vital for France. England were able to limit Mbappe’s incursions, with Kyle Walker sticking close to him and Bukayo Saka also providing cover to stop him turning. Expect De Paul and Molina to do a similar job for Argentina and don’t be surprised to see a couple of yellow cards dished out as the price to pay for halting Mbappe before he gets into full flow.

Giroud may also fancy his chances against Argentina. The tall 36-year-old striker has four goals in this World Cup and is a huge threat from the sort of high balls that Griezmann, Ousmane Dembele and Hernandez provide.

Argentina showed in 15 minutes against the Netherlands that they don’t defend high-balls that well and that is a weakness France will look to exploit, both from open play and set pieces.

It will be a game of fine margins, but whoever gets it tactically right on the day (and both coaches have got things right so far) will win the prize. Expect this to go to the wire and don’t be surprised in there is extra time.

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