And so, after 62 matches over almost a month, the stage was set for the Qatar 2022 grand final.
Two-time champion Argentina beat Croatia in the first semi-final earlier in the week, while defending champions France ended the World Cup dream of Morocco 2022 with a 2-0 victory on Wednesday.
The attention now moves to the Lusail Stadium, where this Sunday, the blues will face La Albiceleste in a final that has multiple plot lines.
France is the first champion to reach the final in two decades, while Argentina is chasing a third title. Disputing a fourth final, the blues it is also trying to become the first team to retain the World Cup since Brazil accomplished the feat 60 years ago.
According to the most recent FIFA rankings, Argentina is No. 3, while France is No. 4.
The match provides one last chance for 35-year-old Lionel Messi to fulfill his lifelong dream of guiding Argentina to its third title.
His teammate from Paris Saint-Germain stands in Messi’s way kylian mbappeas France looks to win back-to-back World Cup trophies.
After a stunning loss to Saudi Arabia in their opening group match, Argentina’s World Cup campaign got off to the worst possible start.
However, Lionel Scaloni’s side regrouped and over the next five matches rediscovered the form that saw Argentina go on a 36-match unbeaten run before that loss to Saudi Arabia.
And as so many times before, the magical Messi has cast a spell over the opposition teams at Qatar 2022, doing everything in his power to ensure Argentina has the best possible chance of winning a first World Cup title since 1986. .
There was the touch and finish against Mexico in the group stage, the sublime pass to set up Argentina’s first goal against the Netherlands, and then a penalty and assist that saw his country beat Croatia 3-0 in Tuesday’s semi-final.
On Sunday, Messi will have one last chance to win and lift the trophy, in front of some of the estimated 40,000 Argentine fans who traveled to Qatar for this World Cup. Eight years ago, Messi and Argentina reached the final of the World Cup hosted by Brazil, but were beaten 1-0 by Germany.
When asked if Sunday’s match will be his last in a World Cup, Messi replied: “Yes. Surely yes. There are many years left for the next one and I don’t think I have it in me and ending like this is the best.
“[I feel] very happy to be able to achieve this. Ending my World Cup career playing my last game in a final.
“Everything I have experienced in this World Cup is very emotional, what the people have experienced and how much the people are enjoying there in Argentina,” he said.
Along the way, Messi has been ably assisted by striker Julián Álvarez, who scored two of the three goals to beat Croata in the semi-finals, and midfielder Alexis Mac Allister.
Goalkeeper Emi Martínez also endeared himself to the Argentine fans with two saves in the penalty shootout against the Netherlands in the quarterfinals, following his exploits in the Copa América semifinals against Colombia last year.
Mbappé, who is tied with Messi as the top scorer in this tournament, will do everything he can to derail Argentina, with France looking to have the most complete team in the tournament.
Antoine Griezmann has provided much of France’s creative force, while also helping out in defence. The Atlético Madrid star was instrumental in France’s win against England, crossing magnificently for Olivier Giroud to head the winner from France in a 2-1 quarter-final win.
Like Griezmann, the 36-year-old Giroud has had a renaissance at this World Cup, after failing to score a single goal in 2018.
But in Qatar 2022, the AC Milan striker has scored four World Cup goals, just one behind Mbappé, and has become France’s all-time goalscorer.
World Cup winner with France as a player in 1998 and as a The Blues’ coach in 2018, Deschamps said he wants his players to savor their achievements at Qatar 2022.
“It has been a month that we are together with the players. It’s never easy,” Deschamps said, according to FIFA, after France’s victory over Morocco.
“But it has been a great joy so far, and my players, the group has been rewarded for this success. We’re going after the title on Sunday.
“We are going to take our time. I say this to my staff and players: ‘Take advantage of every moment of the day to really appreciate and savor the moment.’ In four days, we are going to play for a world title. We will enjoy it now and prepare for the last game of this World Cup”.