Argentina vs. France will provide plenty of subplots

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The main event

Lisandro Martínez against Raphaël Varane, Leandro Paredes against Adrien Rabiot, Cristian Romero against Hugo Lloris and Nahuel Molina against Antoine Griezmann. These are subplots we can expect when Argentina take on France in the final on Sunday. While everyone thinks of Lionel Messi against Kylian Mbappé, there are plenty of teammates who are preparing to fight for the right to be champions of the planet, of the entire planet.

In the theory, Martínez and Varane could team up as centre-backs for Manchester United’s Carabao Cup tie against Burnley next Wednesday. You can imagine the relationship would be somewhat marred by the result in Qatar on Sunday. Certainly, it is to be hoped that the pair are offered a few days off by Erik ten Hag rather than returning immediately to the freezing cold of the North West of England, to ensure that they are fresh and available to play. at Nottingham Forest on December 27.

Whenever these different pairs are forced to unite, there can be even more frost than on the training ground of an English club. Sunday’s final will define the careers of many involved, as half will become the privileged few to win the World Cup and the rest will become footnotes on Wikipedia pages. Whatever the outcome, the outcome will have a lasting impact on individuals. Those who come away buoyed by triumph may not feel the immediate physical and emotional toll that last month in Qatar took on them much later, while losers will be left behind to potentially miss theirs (or in the case of France, another ) chance of glory.

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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The Argentina and France teams will want their most starred men to shine in the final and bring them glory. But those who don’t have a number 10 on the back of their shirt will also need to be at their best to earn glorious gold. They are a group of world-class players often overlooked in the drama of the Qataris funding club transfers for Messi and Mbappé, not to mention their unrivaled qualities.

Paris Saint-Germain have two players in the final squads, while Atlético Madrid have four and Sevilla, Bayern Munich and Juventus three each. The narrative will be strong for M&M but Villarreal, Benfica and Marseille also have two individuals involved. River Plate, Rennes, Aston Villa and West Ham could all welcome back players with the brightest of medals. It would be the second time the Hammers have provided a backup goalkeeper for a France World Cup triumph. Bernard Lama, the big stopper in leggings, was Fabian Barthez’s understudy in 1998 and this time Alphonse Areola spent the whole tournament in reserve. And to think people keep talking about 1966 in East London.

If Argentina won, Real Madrid and Barcelona would be left without a reigning world champion, while Sevilla would have a trio of kings, a celebration of their recruitment rather than the bottomless abyss offered to PSG. If France came out on top, they would see Monaco and Marseille with two gold champions each.

Olivier Giroud has gone from loan spells in France’s third tier to the top of the game, and potentially a second World Cup winner’s medal around his neck. Argentinian Franco Armani moved to Colombia after years in Argentina’s second and third tier, playing top-flight football there after struggling to break into his native country. The goalkeeper applied for Colombian citizenship and was about to get a call, but eventually returned home to quit the 36-year-old 90 minutes from winning the World Cup. Beyond the headlines, there will be some very enjoyable stories. Wu

Talking points

Morocco puts forward its broader point of view
The huge support Morocco (along with Tunisia and Saudi Arabia) have enjoyed over the past month may not have been the sole justification for the decision to host this World Cup in Qatar – nothing can, given Qatar’s previous human rights record – but it has bolstered the case for hosting the World Cup. tournament in this part of the world. Morocco has bid four times, narrowly missing in 1994, more emphatically in 1998 and 2006, and controversially in 2010 (with some reports claiming it racked up more votes than South Africa). Of course, the demands and expense of hosting a modern World Cup make it prohibitively expensive for too many nations, but it’s more of an argument for Fifa to take their demands down a notch. This year’s World Cup has at least shown us that a tournament in the Arab world would not lack a real football culture, on and off the pitch. TD

Moroccan fans make noise during their semi-final defeat against France. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

Third is nowhere for Croatia or Morocco
England fans may recall a submissive loss to Belgium four years ago in third-place play-off. Brazil started it about eight years ago against the Netherlands. The match can be oddly uncompetitive, though perhaps this Saturday’s could go against recent trends. Morocco can still improve their position, while Croatia were delighted to finish third at France 98 and, having been runners-up in 2018, can win three out of a possible seven tournaments with podium finishes. Their coach, Zlatko Dalic, has confirmed that most of the 2022 players will not take part in the next World Cup. While 20-year-old Josko Gvardiol will be there next time, it represents one last fight for a collection of 30-somethings that includes Luka Modric. A lot at stake for both teams, although mental and physical fatigue will play a part. J.B.

Croatian midfielder Luka Modric, left, takes part in a training session on Thursday.

Croatian midfielder Luka Modric, left, takes part in a training session on Thursday. Photograph: Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images

More than three dozen Nepalese civil society groups have called on Fifa President Gianni Infantino to “stop looking the other way” as migrant workers are denied compensation after “suffering abuse in Qatar”. In an open letter to Infantino, the organizations called for compensation for workers they said suffered abuse and families who lost loved ones. “Stories of stolen wages and shattered dreams are part of our daily lives,” the letter read. “We are all too familiar with the images of coffins arriving at Tribhuvan International Airport. We therefore ask you, President Infantino, to stop looking away as the citizens of our country – and all other nationalities – are deprived of their rights.

Global media watch

Le Matin au Maroc was pleased that Antoine Griezmann had noted “the complexity of the match”, and said that the national team “could still end their memorable campaign on a positive note on Saturday, in the ‘little final’ against Croatia” . But dignitaries played a big role in semi-final coverage. Le Matin also noted that King Abdullah II of Jordan, Emir of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and US Ambassador to Morocco Puneet Talwar all “expressed their pride in the achievement of the Lions of Atlas” on Twitter.

Hespress reported that Morocco’s King Mohammed VI spoke with President Emmanuel Macron after the game to congratulate him on France’s victory. Mehdi Hitane wrote that the team was “heralded as the most inspiring campaign of the 2022 World Cup” and “welcomed with mass respect and admiration for an inspirational journey”.

Moroccan fans react as they watch the game in Casablanca.

Moroccan fans react as they watch the game in Casablanca. Photograph: Abdelhak Balhaki/Reuters

Al Bayane made a point of putting the success of the team on the account of the King himself, whom he praised for the creation of the Mohammed VI Football Academy, and for “the particular and permanent attention [he] has never ceased to surround the sports sector in general and the practice of football in particular”.

Fans who were unable to attend remained worried, with Assabah saying the late cancellation of flights came “like love at first sight for many who dreamed of attending the semi-final”. Their verdict was that the national team left the competition with “heads held high”, and on Thursday noon their website was leading with the fact that US President Joe Biden had watched the match. alongside Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch. MB

internet reacts

Videos of celebrations with teams returning to their hotels have become ubiquitous in Qatar, but there was one good point to note in the French latest: Adrien Rabiot was ruled out of his semi-final due to illness but can be seen popping up at 1 min 02 s.

Meanwhile, The Associated Press traveled to Rosario, the town in Argentina where Lionel Messi grew up, for a short report with its inhabitants.

And finally …

Those big-name former players that viewers saw lounging in the plush seats at games now have to sing for their dinners. Or at least play football. With no more football until Saturday, Fifa’s content delivery machine has set up an all-star tournament.

Starting Thursday and contested over two days, the Fifa Legends Cup, to quote: “will feature eight teams, 18 matches and nearly 100 Fifa legends over two days of pre-Fifa World Cup™ final entertainment”. World Cup winners Iker Casillas, Carles Puyol, Cafu, Francesco Totti and Kaká top the names, although less successful male World Cup players such as John Terry and Didier Drogba, and female stars such as Emma Byrne and Kristine Lilly will also compete in 30-minute matches at the Doha Tennis Centre.

Calling the teams African Lions, Northern Bears, East Tigers, Arab Falcons, European Wolves, South American Panthers, European Dragons and South American Eagles is a naming convention to remind cricket fans of the dreaded Hundred. “Football is about joy, smiles, fun,” said Gianni Infantino as he unfolded that final wheeze. J.B.

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