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Predictions: Who will win the Qatar World Cup?

The stage is set for the grand finale.

After a month of football festivities in Qatar, France and Argentina remain the last two standing.

France will be the first reigning champion to play the World Cup final in 24 years. But they will have to look further to take inspiration for a second successive title win since Brazil, who won the title in 1958 and 1962, are the only team to do so.

Argentina will look to avoid their third final defeat after their World Cup winning run in 1986.

Argentina have showed great determination throughout the tournament to make it to the final.

They opened their campaign with a surprise defeat to Saudi Arabia, but that could not stop them from winning the next two group matches and winning the group.

They did not let the Netherlands run away with the game after the Oranje restored parity in magnificent style in the quarterfinals. And in the semi, they made light work of Croatia, who had eliminated Brazil in the previous round. La Albiceleste are a team on a roll.

Argentina have arguably the greatest footballer in football history, Lionel Messi.

The 35-year-old has won every possible trophy in the senior stage, but the only glaring miss in his trophy cabinet is a World Cup medal.

The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner came close to fulfilling his dream in 2014 when Argentina agonisingly lost the final 1-0 to Germany. Messi will be determined to avoid a similar heartbreak and end his international career with a memorable last dance.

Messi has been instrumental in Argentina’s success in the tournament, but he is not the only one who has brought the Latin American side this far.

Nicolás Otamendi has seemingly found the fountain of youth as he has been playing like a player well below his thirties.

Premier League duo Lisandro Martínez and Cristian Romero have supported the veteran in building a formidable backline.

Enzo Fernández has emerged as a midfield powerhouse, and Julián Álvarez has shown that the future of the Argentina frontline is in safe hands. Above all, Argentina’s manager Lionel Scaloni’s tactical acumen has paved the way to the final.

Scaloni has tweaked his system to neutralise the threat of the opposition in every match.

He contained the Netherland’s front two threat with a back five, resorted to a back four, and went for a counter-attacking approach to exploit Croatia’s lacklustre frontline and open up gaps in their midfield. Argentina’s unpredictable tactical shape makes them a tricky team to beat.

Scaloni will have to cook up something special to contain the threat of France’s attacking might. Morocco did not concede a goal to opposition forwards in the entire tournament. But it took Les Bleus only four minutes to unlock the Moroccan defence in the semifinals.

The Atlas Lions put up a great fight, but they could not add the French to their list of giant huntings.

Kylian Mbappé has bagged five goals in Qatar and share the top spot in the Golden Boot race with Messi.

But it has been Antoine Griezmann who has been running the show for France. Didier Deschamps asked to play him a playmaker role behind Olivier Giroud and Kylian Mbappé, and he has executed that role to perfection.

The Atlético Madrid forward has created 21 chances in the competition so far; no other player has managed to create more.

France did not start the tournament on the back of great results, but they left all that behind and made it to the final. So they have no reason to feel like the underdogs at the Luisal Iconic on Sunday evening.

Team News

Marcos Acuña and Gonzalo Montiel will be available for selection after serving their one-match suspension in the semifinal.

Alejandro Gómez is the only injury concern in the Argentina camp, as Ángel Di María has been declared fully fit.

France are dealing with several illness cases as Dayot Upamecano, Adrien Rabiot, Kingsley Coman, Raphaël Varane, and Ibrahima Konaté are all doubtful.

Karim Benzema has recovered fully and is available to feature should Deschamps decide to call upon him. But the France boss is expected to rely on in-form Olivier Giroud instead.

Our Prediction

We foresee an Argentina win the final because France have been far from convincing as a defensive unit in Qatar. And the illness problems should tip the balance further towards the Latin Americans.

France have managed to outscore their opponents till now, but they could fall short against an on-song Argentina attack that boasts the likes of Messi, Álvarez, and Di María.

We say 2-1 to Argentina.

Date: 18 December

Kickoff: 8:30 PM IST

Venue: Lusail Iconic Stadium

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