After four weeks of scintillating soccer on the Arabian Peninsula, we’ve reached the climax of the 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup, and what a finale it is.
This dream matchup between France, the reigning champs, and Argentina, one of the pre-tourney favorites, has all the makings of a classic, with history to be made and legacies cemented regardless of the outcome.
So how should you approach what appears to be an even contest? Read on for the details, and be sure to check out FanDuel Sportsbook for the latest World Cup odds.
France (-108 to win) vs. Argentina (-108)
Lusail Stadium | Al Daayen, Qatar | 10am ET
It was always going to end this way, wasn’t it?
In this unorthodox winter World Cup -- one defined by concerns off the pitch and upsets on it -- two of world soccer’s traditional powers still managed to outlast the rest of the 32-team field to arrive at the threshold of glory.
And while this pair have had moments of concern at various points in this tournament -- both lost in the group stage, both have dealt with injury and illness, and both nearly crashed out in the quarterfinals -- here they still stand, one win away from claiming a third world championship for their country.
Some believed this was Argentina’s tournament to lose from the start, the destiny of 35-year-old Lionel Messi to close his international career with the one trophy that’s alluded him.
Others felt that France were well-positioned to not only break the Maldición de los campeones -- the Champion’s Curse that’s seen the reigning World Cup winner crash out in the group stage in each of the previous three editions -- but to become the first team in 60 years to earn back-to-back crowns.
Now, the two meet on Sunday just north of Doha in a rematch of a Round-of-16 contest at the 2018 World Cup, though as finals are often cagey affairs, no one expects this replay to resemble the wild 4-3 match witnessed in Kazan four years ago.
Both teams have been adequate defensively in this tournament, with each allowing fewer than a goal per match while ranking in the top 25% of the field in fewest shots allowed.
As you’d expect, both have also been good going forward. France’s 13 goals lead the tournament, with Argentina just behind on 12, and both rank top five in average shots and shots on target.
And while Didier Deschamps’ side is getting over a virus that kept starting midfielder Adrien Rabiot and starting center-back Dayot Upamecano out of the lineup against Morocco in the semis, no one on either team will miss the final to suspension, giving both managers a full squad to select from.
Based on what these two sides have shown at this tournament, Argentina should have more of the ball -- Lionel Scaloni’s team has averaged 57.8% possession in Qatar, 5.1 percentage points more than Les Bleus -- while the French will look to attack in transition through the pace of joint-Golden Boot leader Kylian Mbappe and the precision of Antoine Griezmann in midfield.
In other words, expect a similar game script to what France and Argentina faced in their respective quarterfinals.
In France’s 2-1 quarterfinal win over England, they ceded 57% possession to the Three Lions -- a number inflated a bit because the French took an early lead -- but the holders ultimately won the match thanks to six saves from Hugo Lloris and the clinical finishing of Olivier Giroud.
Still, the expected goals (xG) in that contest was 2.4 for England to just 0.9 for France.
Meanwhile, the lasting memory from Argentina’s 2-2 draw with the Netherlands was the furious late comeback engineered by Wout Weghorst to push the match to extra time. It’s easy to forget the Albiceleste actually dominated proceedings until the Dutch went Route 1 in the final 10 minutes by bringing three players 6-foot-5 or taller into the attack.
The xG in that game? 1.9 for the Argentines, 0.6 for Holland.
And while it’s not an exact comparison, Argentina have proven they can stifle a team with similar skill and intent as the one they'll face next, while France were perhaps fortunate to advance against the highest-caliber opponent they’ve come up against to this point -- food for thought in the leadup to a title decider almost too close to call.
Regardless of who comes out on top in the end, Sunday's final should be a match worthy of this outstanding tournament it will complete. Enjoy it, and may the best side win.
Going Deeper: numberFire’s projections give the edge to France -- but only just -- in what portends to be one of the toughest matches to call in the tournament. We hand the French a 37.9% chance to win in regulation or regulation plus extra time. If Les Bleus do earn the victory, they’d become the third team in men’s World Cup history to repeat as champions, joining Italy (1934, 1938) and Brazil (1958, 1962). Meanwhile, an Argentina win would mark the first time in 20 years a non-European nation lifts the trophy.
Call To Action: For your consideration…
In the previous 21 men’s World Cup finals, only one was a scoreless draw after 120 minutes -- shout-out, USA '94! -- though two of the last three finals didn’t feature any scoring in regular time and ended in 1-0 results, including the 2014 final, which featured Argentina.
In the Argentines’ last major final -- the 2021 Copa America -- they defeated a high-octane Brazil side 1-0 in a clash that featured just four total shots on goal between the two sides.
In their six matches at this tournament, the Argentines have posted a stellar average xGA (expected goals allowed) of 0.4 per match.
While France have scored at least twice in every match they’ve fielded a first-choice team in Qatar -- disregard the 1-0 defeat to Tunisia on Matchday 3 -- they were blanked on two occasions in UEFA Nations League games in the buildup to the World Cup.
As the first semifinal was played Tuesday and the second Wednesday, Argentina have the luxury of an extra day of rest and recovery before the final.
With all that in mind, if you like Argentina, consider a 1-0 win after 90 minutes (+650) or an Albiceleste extra-time win by any scoreline (+1100).
On the contrary, in France’s 22 matches in 2021 and 2022, they’ve scored at least one goal in 19 of them.
France has also allowed a goal in 11 of the 14 matches they’ve played this calendar year.
France is 11-0 in World Cup matches when Kylian Mbappe starts.
France tore apart Argentina’s backline in that 4-3 Round-of-16 win in Russia four years ago, with Mbappe scoring twice.
In France’s three previous World Cup final appearances -- 1998, 2006, and 2018 -- they’ve averaged 2.67 goals per game in the deciders.
In short, a victory for France will likely see both teams score, and that offers much more value (+500) than opting for Les Bleus straight up (-108).