France and Argentina are level at 2-2 as the 2022 FIFA World Cup goes into extra time, with both teams still chasing the glory of a third World Cup trophy.
The game kicked off at 16:00 CET, with the top teams in Europe and South America looking for victory in the last game of the month-long tournament.
Argentina’s talismanic captain Lionel Messi got the first goal, a penalty, in the 23rd minute, while his teammate Angel Di Maria put the ball in the back of the net for Argentina’s second goal in the 36th minute.
France looked sluggish at times, and overwhelmed by Argentina’s more aggressive style of play. However Les Bleus jolted into life in the last ten minutes of regular play, when Kylian Mbappé scored from the spot in the 80th minute, and followed it up just one minute later with his second goal of the game.
When neither side scored in stoppage time, the game is headed into extra time.
France are the reigning champions and are being supported in the final by thousands of fans, including super fan President Emmanuel Macron who already flew once to Qatar to watch Les Bleus win their semi-final against Morocco.
“I’m backing the France team and I think that the French are too,” Macron said this week.
Paris and some other French big cities have decided not to broadcast World Cup matches on giant screens in public fan zones amid concerns about Qatar’s human rights record, but Macron is meeting with Qatari officials during his trip.
On the pitch, France coach Didier Deschamps knows most neutral fans want Argentina to win the World Cup final to give Lionel Messi the perfect send-off from soccer’s biggest tournament.
In fact, Deschamps even believes some people in France hope that happens, too.
“I’m fine being alone in the world — that doesn’t bother me,” he said with a smile.
It feels like Deschamps and his France team have been up against it throughout the tournament.
The World Cup started for France with a deluge of injuries, with Karim Benzema, Christopher Nkunku and Presnel Kimpembe getting ruled out to join Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante on the sidelines.
It is finishing with France’s squad being further weakened by a virus that led to defender Dayot Upamecano and midfielder Adrien Rabiot missing the win over Morocco in the semifinals.
Three more players — center backs Raphael Varane and Ibrahima Konaté and winger Kingsley Coman — were absent at practice on Friday but they were present on Saturday, when all 24 members of squad were in attendance for the team’s final training session before Sunday’s final.
Argentina’s fervent fans
Argentines woke up Sunday ready to watch the national team play in Qatar for a third World Cup title, the first since 1986, amid a feeling of unity and joy that is rare for a country that has been engulfed in an economic crisis for years.
“People are feeling a very intense happiness constantly. Cars are driving around with the flag. The whole city is dressed with the flag,” said Buenos Aires resident Guillermo Ortiz, 52.
“The crazy thing is that we’re all united and say we want what’s best, which generally doesn’t happen in this country. It’s as if soccer draws a circle and puts us all inside.”
Argentina last reached the World Cup final in 2014, when it lost to Germany, but anticipation and excitement for this game is far higher than it was even for that match eight years ago in Brazil.
Argentina arguably has the World Cup’s most fervent fans, known for their rhythmical singing, incessant drumming and trance-like ferocity.
The country’s history of success at the World Cup — champions in 1978 and 1986, and runners-up three times — is rivaled by few. This fervor will only grow as Lionel Messi leads Argentina against defending champion France in Sunday’s final in Qatar.
There is no escaping the sense that it is Messi’s destiny to emulate soccer great Diego Maradona and lead Argentina to the World Cup title.
The 35-year-old Paris Saint-Germain forward has been in inspired form in Qatar, scoring five goals on the way to the final and producing some magical assists for his teammates. Maradona, who died in 2020, also scored five times in ’86 and was an iconic figure for his team and country.
Messi does not dominate games over 90 minutes in the way he did during his peak years.
Instead he decides them with moments of brilliance that showcase the talents that have led many to describe him as the finest soccer player in history. He has carried the expectations of his nation throughout his career, but never truly delivered at a World Cup.
While he may be past his best, he has been more influential in this tournament than in any of his previous four World Cups.
Argentina’s fans seem convinced they will win the trophy for a third time and that there is more than just Messi guiding them on. “Maradona,” they sing, “is cheering Lionel on” from heaven.