Half-hour wait begins for highly anticipated Argentina-France World Cup showdown – Sport



The 30-minute wait begins for the highly anticipated FIFA World Cup final clash between Argentina and France tonight (Sunday) at Qatar’s Lusail Stadium.

The closing ceremony for the World Cup was celebrated ahead of the final.

Fans thronged the stadium before the match’s start.

Argentina face defending champions France in the final with Lionel Messi seeking to win the honour that has so far eluded one of football’s greatest-ever players.

In his way stands the prolific Kylian Mbappe and a France team aiming to win back-to-back World Cups for the first time since Pele’s Brazil in 1958 and 1962.

Messi, 35, has collected seven Ballon d’Or awards for the best player in the world, but the last time he reached the World Cup final it ended in the bitter disappointment of defeat to Germany in 2014.

It is Messi’s quest that will focus the world’s attention on the 89,000-capacity Lusail Stadium in Doha, the most spectacular of the remarkable venues that the desert state have erected to host the tournament, for the 1500 GMT kickoff.

“I am well aware that Argentina will have a lot of fans behind them,” France coach Didier Deschamps said on the eve of the game.

“I know Argentina, many people around the world, and maybe some French people, hope Lionel Messi could win the World Cup, but we’re going to do everything to achieve our objective.”

Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez said: “People say the favourites are France. But we have the greatest player of all time.”

Deschamps has suffered a difficult few days since France beat Morocco — the first African team ever to reach the last four— in the semi-final.

His squad have been battling a mystery virus that is believed to have affected five players so far.

Central defenders Raphael Varane and Ibrahima Konate, and winger Kingsley Coman were forced to miss training on Friday because of the illness.

Before that, midfielder Adrien Rabiot and Dayot Upamecano were ruled out of the semi-final.

Players, staff and sources close to the French squad have spoken of a range of symptoms including fever, stomach pain and headaches.

“We are trying to take as many precautions as possible, to adapt as necessary and get on with it,” Deschamps said.

He had cause for encouragement when all 24 members of his squad took to the field at the start of their last team training session before the final, although reporters were ushered away after 15 minutes.

Croatia beat Morocco 2-1 in the third-place playoff on Saturday, but the north Africans’ coach Walid Regragui predicted a team from Africa will win the World Cup in the next “15-20 years”.

The next World Cup in 2026 will be expanded to 48 teams and Africa will have nine slots, up from five at present.

“With nine participants, we’re going to learn. In 15, 20 years, I’m sure an African team will win the World Cup because we’ll have learned,” said Regragui.



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