Kylian Mbappe against Lionel Messi.
The latest football star to face off perhaps the sport’s greatest player in the World Cup final that almost everyone has been hoping for.
France and Mbappe looked back on football’s biggest and long-awaited match-up with Argentina, after ending Morocco’s historic World Cup run on Wednesday.
Against the country’s president, Emmanuel Macron, France beat the first-ever African team in the semi-finals 2-0, with Mbappe playing a part in Theo Hernandez’s goals in the fifth minute and replacing Randall Kolo Moane in the 79th.
Mbappe became a global phenomenon when he captained France to the title in Russia in 2018 and he has the chance to emulate Brazilian superstar Pele as hero in the first two World Cups when he takes on the 35-year-old Messi who has dominated the team. Matches with Cristiano Ronaldo over the past 15 years.
It is an ultimate dream for many, with France looking to become the first team to retain the title since Brazil in 1962 and Argentina on a mission to lift the final soccer trophy for the third time in what is likely to be Messi’s last World Cup.
French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris said: “We need all our strength and energy to face a very competitive team with one of the legends of the sport with Messi.”
We wanted to keep their dream alive
There will not be a team from the Arab world in the first World Cup final in the Middle East, a possibility that seemed almost impossible before the tournament, but it almost happened in Qatar.
Morocco has been widely lauded for paving the way to Africa and generating a wave of pride among Arab countries after dominating a group including Croatia and Belgium and eliminating two other European powers – Spain and Portugal – during the knockout stage. Their players also gave France a far from easy campaign before they collapsed to the ground in despair after the final whistle.
Moroccan national team coach Walid Rekragui said, “We are disappointed with the Moroccan people.” We wanted to bring their dream to life.” “We felt we could have gone further but we have created a good image for Morocco and African football. It was important to us. »
Remarkably, Hernandez’s first goal was the first he had scored against Morocco by an opposing player in the tournament – the other being an own goal in the group stage – but the team responded and an injury to their defense caused a gutsy performance. sincere. Among the tens of thousands of over 60,000 fans at Al Bayt Stadium.
France sometimes had to stand up for itself, but it developed a talent for winning victories even if it did not play to the best of its ability. The country will play in the final for the fourth time in the last seven World Cups, more than any other country.
“It wasn’t easy and we showed our quality, our experience and our team spirit,” said France coach Didier Deschamps.
In pursuit of the Golden Boot
Mbappe fell short of his five goals in the tournament but helped set up Hernandez’s opening goal when his shot was deflected by a defender into the left-back’s path. Hernandez allowed the ball to rebound before launching a downward effort into the net from a tight angle.
Usually a first-team defender, Morocco had to come out and play despite the shock of losing Naif Aguird to injury in the warm-up and another full-back, captain Romain Saïss, after just 21 minutes to a hamstring injury. Both players were in doubt before the match, but they were endangered by Rekragui and left-back Nossair Mazraoui, who contracted the flu and continued until the end of the first half.
Morocco, dressed in red and green, sealed the goal when Javad Alimak hit the post with a header in the 44th minute and forced France to defend in numbers, with the team’s playmaker Antoine Griezmann instrumental. He plays as a deep midfielder and often takes shots from inside the penalty area.
However, Mbappe was given more space as Morocco’s efforts worsened late in the second half and he was moved to a central position. After dribbling past two defenders, he hit a shot that was deflected towards Kolo Mwani, who knocked him off the field less than a minute later.
The goal was celebrated by Macron, who traveled to watch the match and had already visited Doha’s Souq Waqif before heading to the stadium. The president congratulated the French in the dressing room after the match.
However, they may have to raise their level against Argentina.
“Any team that includes Messi is a completely different proposition,” Griezmann said.
The World Cup is not the only issue on Sunday. Messi and Mbappe are tied for top scorer with five goals as they chase the Golden Boot award.
The Moroccan World Cup is not over yet. The team will play the third-place match against Croatia at Khalifa International Stadium on Saturday.