Despite the 2022 World Cup being the first played in the middle of Europe’s domestic seasons, the tournament hasn’t disappointed. While many of us were apprehensive about a winter World Cup and the effect it would have on the play in Qatar, this tournament has been quite entertaining.
The biggest storyline has to be the magical run of Morocco to the semifinals—the first for an African or majority Arab-speaking country. And the Moroccans weren’t the only underdogs to make some noise. Upsets have been the big story, with Japan, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, South Korea, and Australia each scoring surprising wins, giving the tournament a sort of changing of the guard feel with teams from Africa and Asia beating traditional European and South American powers.
In the end, the cream rose to the top, with two of world football’s premier national teams and pre-tournament favorites, Argentina and France, making it to the final, with each club vying to secure its third World Cup title. Argentina previously won the tournament at home in 1978 and in Mexico in 1986. Meanwhile, the French lifted the trophy in Paris in 1998 and again just four years ago in Russia.
The winner of this match will move into fourth all-time for World Cup titles, separating themselves from their opponent and Uruguay (2 titles) and moving closer to Germany (4), Italy (4), and Brazil (5). Additionally, France seeks to become the first repeat champion since Brazil in 1958 and 1962.
Even with all that at stake, there will be plenty of other interesting storylines to keep an eye on in what should prove to be a top-notch match.
What To Watch For
Which Star Will Cement His Legacy?
Speaking of changing of the guard, this World Cup has seen Cristiano Ronaldo leave in tears after being reduced to a bench role for Portugal. Now, we will see Lionel Messi play in what may be his last World Cup match ever. Those two have been the face of world football for over a decade now, fending off all comers to their thrones as the best players in the world. And both can also make a case for best player of all time alongside Pele and Maradona.
However, Messi and Ronaldo each lack something those aforementioned greats do: a World Cup title to their name. Ronaldo has a European Championship to his credit, and Messi finally won a Copa America last summer. But neither of those continental titles can cement a legacy like a World Cup, especially for Messi, who is constantly compared to his compatriot and World Cup winner Diego Maradona. Win this World Cup, and Messi amplifies his case as being the best player of all time.
Meanwhile, on the opposite side is Kylian Mbappé, the heir apparent to Messi and Ronaldo. Mbappé was a revelation at the 2018 World Cup in Russia after leading France to its second title ever at just 19 years old. In that tournament, Mbappé scored four times, including in the final—a 4-2 thumping of Croatia. He was also named young player of the tournament.
This time around, Mbappé is no surprise breakout player. He’s one of the established stars of world football and Messi’s peer at PSG. And he’s been even better this tournament, with five goals and two assists to his name. A win in Doha could put Mbappé on a Pele-Esque trajectory.
Messi and Mbappé will have a big say on which side lifts the trophy, and with the two level on five goals for the tournament, if one takes over the match, it’ll likely mean not only a World Cup title but also a Golden Ball.
Will the Goals Flow?
Historically, we saw plenty of goals in the early World Cup finals. In fact, the first 13 finals all saw at least three combined goals, with no team keeping a clean sheet. That all changed starting in Italia ‘90 when West Germany beat Argentina 1-0. Including that match, six of the last eight finals have seen two goals or less. In those six matches, five of the winners have kept a clean sheet, including a 0-0 120’ stalemate between Italy and Brazil in 1994.
There is, however, one exception to this rule: matches that have involved France, whose two title-winning matches produced three or more goals. At the 1998 edition of the tournament, the French shut out Brazil 3-0. Then last year’s final produced a six-goal thriller as France defeated Croatia 4-2. And that trend has continued in this tournament, with both sides scoring three or more goals in four of their six combined matches.
While both of these sides have capable defenses, the star power is up front. It’ll be interesting to see how these two sides approach the match. Given Mbappé’s pace and the danger posed by France on the counter, one would think that Argentina would prefer to keep it a bit tighter. Meanwhile, the French must like their chances in a run-and-gun style match against anyone. The first 30 or so minutes of this one could really set the tone as to how this one plays out in terms of goals.
Will Roma Have Its First World Cup Winner Since 2006?
The Giallorossi have seen fifteen players lift the World Cup trophy while they were members of the club. Early on, with Italy lifting the cup in two of the first three editions of the tournament (1934 & 1938), Roma was well represented with Attilio Ferraris and Enrique Guaita (1934), Guido Masetti and Eraldo Monzeglio (1934 and 1938), Aldo Donati and Pietro Serantoni (1938) all playing a part for the Azzurri. It would then be another 44 years before Bruno Conte won with Italy in 1982.
However, once Serie A started to recruit more foreign players in the 1990s, Roma started hosting winners from nations other than Italy. Germans Rudi Völler and Thomas Berthold won in 1990. Aldair was part of Brazil’s 1994 side. Vincent Candela helped lead France to its first title in 1998. Cafu followed that for Brazil in 2002. Of course, who could forget two of Roma’s all-time greats—Francesco Totti and Daniele De Rossi— along with teammate Simone Perrotta all playing key roles for Italy in 2006?
With champions in five straight World Cups, it seemed like the Giallorossi would be included among the biggest contenders World Cup after World Cup. However, Roma players have been absent from the last three World Cup finals.
That changes on Sunday, as Paulo Dybala will suit up for Argentina. Dybala has seen limited playing time behind Messi in the tournament, limited to only 17 garbage time minutes in Argentina’s 3-0 thumping of Croatia in the semifinals. Regardless of whether he plays or not, a victory for Argentina would give Roma its first World Cup winner since 2016 and sixteenth all-time.
Enjoy the finale!