and then there were two

Main event

And then there were two! After one of the least predictable World Cups ever, we now have a final that won’t surprise anyone – and what a final it should be.

Fear not, the Briefing knows its history and is extremely aware of the stupidity of a comment – and yet, and yet, and yet. In their semi-finals, Argentina and France came up against efficient and organized teams, but both found a way to impose their class while showing enough defensive acumen to excite each other. for the final.

Related: France ends Moroccan adventure and reaches World Cup final

The array of attacking talent, however, is only part of what makes Sunday’s showcase so appealing in theory. Ultimately, sport is a story, stories stir the human psyche like nothing else, and it’s a game weighed down by narrative and meaning; with characters and themes.

Argentina, already champions of the Copa América, seek to establish themselves as the best international team on the planet. And if they win on Sunday, they will leave behind France and Uruguay, who play in two World Cups, to place themselves behind Germany and Italy who have four, and Brazil, in the lead with five. , while soccer is fourth, uh, ‘the most winning nation. It’s a thing.

It’s a World Cup like no other. For the past 12 years, the Guardian has reported on the issues surrounding Qatar 2022, from corruption and human rights abuses to the treatment of migrant workers and discriminatory laws. The best of our journalism is collected on our dedicated Qatar: Beyond the Football homepage for those who want to dig deeper into the issues beyond the pitch.

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But the other thing – something that has preoccupied us for the better part of a generation and has, to a large extent, defined this competition – is whether it will have the honor of being won by Lionel Messi. . Whether he’s the greatest player of all time depends on your criteria – according to the Briefing, Messi lacks the dangerous, intoxicating charisma of Diego Maradona in Mexico ’86, where he played association football better than anyone before or since. But when it comes to sustained disbelief and involuntary cries of biological impossibilities, he’s so far removed from everyone else that it’s hard not to wonder if he even exists. If Maradona did it like the devil, Messi plays like God.

France, meanwhile, seeks pure glory, and a place in the gallery of immortals. Since Brazil in 1962, football’s most important trophy has not been kept, and if they became the first team to achieve the feat in the modern era, they would rival both the success of their own countries by winning the 1998 World Cup followed by Euro 2000, and Spain by winning three consecutive titles – two European Championships and a World Cup – between 2008 and 2012.

Like Argentina, they too have a player looking for what should be the crowning achievement of his career, at just 23, Kylian Mbappé looks set to win another and another and another. Not since Maradona has there been a player of such invaluable confidence – of such justifiable certainty in the ridiculous singularity of his own ability – and he will expect to be the decisive figure in the final. But unlike the bouncing Maradona and Messi, always an unassuming magician, Mbappé is playful, childlike; and no less a killer, a footballer’s angel of death.

However, Argentina and France have reached this stage not because they have the best players – although they do – but because they are the best teams, and to reduce a match with so many aspects to Messi v Mbappé is insane – almost as insane as predicting a classic. But that’s football for you. Bring it on! DH

Talking Points

Morocco falls short but they were a credit
Walid Regragui could not resist the temptation to risk those who had taken Morocco to the brink of history. But adrenaline and a sense of opportunity have not replaced physical preparation. Nayef Aguerd could not even pass the warm-up, Romain Saïss reported that his thigh could not support him once burned by Olivier Giroud. Noussair Mazraoui did not survive the half-time. All three were on the dubious list. Maybe Regragui could have shown more confidence in his squad’s depth. Once turned into a 4-3-3, Morocco tied France for the defending champions to turn to the clock and the referee for a break. Sofyan Amrabat excelled in midfield, as he did against Spain and Portugal. He was a star, just as his side’s run to the last four was Qatar’s most welcome World Cup story. J.B.

Romain Saïss (right) had to be taken off by Walid Regragui after just 20 minutes. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

Argentina fans add authenticity to Qatar
For those in Qatar, the sense of the jamboree found in previous World Cups has been somewhat absent. Perhaps it’s a byproduct of holding a tournament in a supercity built in the middle of a desert, an infrastructure built for the automobile rather than for pedestrians. It is also suggested that the cost of accommodation was deliberately prohibitive to avoid the flood of humanity that usually swells the population of host towns. Morocco and Saudi Arabia, as Arab nations, resisted this trend, as did Argentina. South Americans still travel in large numbers, doing so amid disappointment in Russia four years ago and with Rio turning into an Argentinian enclave ahead of the 2014 final against Germany. As questions continue to be raised about how full the stadiums are, Argentina’s blue and white wash has added authenticity to the tournament, much like those long, wordy terrace anthems their fans perform. J.B.

It has been revealed that Friday’s quarter-final between the Netherlands and Argentina was the scene of further tragedy to accompany the loss of Grant Wahl. On the day Wahl’s family announced that an autopsy revealed that an aortic aneurysm was the cause of the famous journalist’s sudden death, it was revealed that a Kenyan migrant worker, John Njue Kibue, 24 years old, died while working as a security guard.

Kibue fell from the eighth floor of Lusail Stadium before dying after three days in intensive care, with a witness telling the Guardian that Kibue fell from the highest point in the hall near Gate 30 of the stadium. “The Qatar tournament organizers are urgently investigating the circumstances that led to the fall,” read a statement from Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy.

Anne Wanjiru, Kibue’s sister, told the Nairobi Standard newspaper that help and explanations have not yet been forthcoming from the Qatari authorities or Fifa. “We want answers about the circumstances of his death,” she said. “They claim he was drunk. We heard he worked long hours. The clarity of how he fell does not come out. J.B.

John Njau Kibue suffered a serious fall while on duty at Lusail Stadium.

John Njau Kibue suffered a serious fall while on duty at Lusail Stadium. Photography: Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Global media watch

Novi list made a big deal of Novak Djokovic sending his congratulations to Croatia on Instagram, while it was good to see that the English media do not have a monopoly on bemoaning refereeing decisions following an exit untimely. Jutarnji list described Italian referee Daniele Orsato’s decision to award Argentina a free kick as “the penalty that divided the whole world”.

Antonio Juricic, Slobodna Dalmacija’s online sports editor, had none of that. “Let’s focus on the bronze, and not on the fact that we have been victimized again. Because we’re not,” he said in an article which also claimed that “there’s nothing wrong with you losing playing the kind of football that got you to the halfbacks. -World Cup finals, and there is no point in spreading negativity”.

Dominik Livakovic brings down Julian Julián Álvarez to give away the penalty scored by Lionel Messi.

The Croatian Dominik Livakovic brings down the Argentinian Julián Álvarez to give a penalty. Photography: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

The reaction in Argentina was of course quite different. In the Buenos Aires Times, Dan Edwards asked: “Who would bet against Argentina now?” Edwards added: “Against all odds, Lionel Scaloni has proven to be an inspired choice, delivering the regeneration Argentina so badly needed with minimal pain and forging a team rich in individual talent and collective spirit.

Among the celebrations was a bit of defensiveness. La Nación devoted an entire column to Juan Manuel Trenado which attempted to refute the idea that Argentina had been favored by refereeing decisions throughout the tournament. Trenado said that “the 10 minutes of added time that Mateu Lahoz granted which allowed the Netherlands to draw”, among other things, showed that Fifa was not guiding Argentina to the final. Clarín put it as simply as possible on its sports pages with the title: “For the third World Cup”. Mo

internet reacts

This view of Lionel Messi’s pitch only makes youngster Josko Gvardiol even more likeable. GB

And finally …

Football has changed a lot over the decades, but an eternal treat is that, unlike many other team sports, quality is not directly proportional to athleticism and physicality. For this reason, the schemer exists and, although the vernacular of contemporary football has evolved, there will always be a place in the game for a clever, cunning, agile, tough little child, who sees things that others do not. not see, directing the big children. the terrain according to their whims. There have been few as intriguing as Luka Modric who, at 37, is coming to the end of his World Cup career. Not just a great of his generation, but a great of the game, Modric is almost the perfect midfielder, the brains and heart behind Croatia’s stunning consistency; Saturday’s third-place playoff is a chance for us to enjoy it while we still can.. DH

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