Argentina face France in World Cup Final in Doha

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By Euronews  with AP
Argentina's Lionel Messi gestures during a training session on the eve of the final soccer match between Argentina and France
Argentina's Lionel Messi gestures during a training session on the eve of the final soccer match between Argentina and France   -  Copyright  Manu Fernandez/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved

Argentine superstar Lionel Messi's once-in-a-generation career will be defined - for many - by whether he leads his country to the World Cup title on Sunday.

Can he finally, at the age of 35, win football's biggest prize to secure his place alongside Pele and Diego Maradona in the pantheon of the game’s greatest-ever players?

Standing in his way are France, the defending champions, and Kylian Mbappé, the player best positioned to take over from Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as soccer’s marquee name.

That's if he hasn’t already.

Mbappe also is standing on the cusp of history heading into the match at the 80,000-seat Lusail Stadium, a title decider that is filled with storylines.

Who wins the Golden Boot - the award for the top scorer - is just one of the many other narratives around the final.

Like France, Argentina is seeking a third World Cup title - after 1978 and 1986 - to move into outright fourth place in the all-time list. 

It would end a 36-year wait for soccer's biggest prize, since Maradona's string of virtuoso performances in Mexico in 1986.

That made Maradona forever a hero in Argentina and an icon in the soccer world.

Messi now appears to be at that level - win or lose on Sunday when he'll play in a record 26th World Cup match.

Messi has evoked comparisons with Maradona in the way he has pushed Argentina to the final, scoring five goals, setting up three more and thrilling his team's legions of fans, who have poured into Qatar throughout the World Cup in numbers only really matched by those from Morocco.

As for Argentina, the team is largely set up simply to get the best out of Messi, with Scaloni likely to select a quartet of central midfielders like in the 3-0 win over Croatia in the semifinals.

Eight years ago, Messi walked away from the 1-0 loss to Germany in the 2014 final with the Ballon d'Or award for the tournament’s best player.

This time, he'll want instead to be lifting another trophy, made of 18-carat solid gold, to cap a career like no other.