The Copa America champions have taken time to hit their stride after an opening game 2-1 defeat against Saudi Arabia and a tough encounter with Mexico in Game 2 before Messi’s 64th-minute opener. But that goal changed everything for Lionel Scaloni’s team. From that point on, they grew in belief as a squad and Messi began to take his game to another level.
In many ways, Argentina’s class of 2022 is an amalgamation of the team that won the World Cup in 1986 and then lost the final in 1990.
In 1986, Diego Maradona produced moments of match-winning genius at every round of the knockout stage to drag his team to victory. Four years later, Argentina lost their opening game and battled through to the final by displaying physical and mental strength in tight knockout games and penalty shootouts.
Messi’s magic has been Maradona-like in wins against Australia, Netherlands and Croatia, but just as Maradona had Claudio Caniggia’s pace and goal threat to finish off his buildup play in 1990, Messi has Julian Alvarez, the Manchester City forward who has four goals at Qatar 2022.
In 1990, the final was a step too far for Maradona and Argentina, so Messi & Co. really need Sunday to be a repeat of 1986.
How France made it to the final
It all started with a shock as France conceded within 10 minutes of their opening World Cup game against Australia. At the time, considering the injuries (Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante, Karim Benzema, Christopher Nkunku, Presnel Kimpembe and Lucas Hernandez) and the troubles Les Bleus had in the buildup to this competition, nobody saw them reaching the final after going behind. But they turned things around spectacularly.
France came back to destroy Australia 4-1 in the end, then they produced a strong performance against Denmark to qualify for the round of 16 after a brace from Mbappe. In the final group game, they lost 1-0 to Tunisia as Deschamps made nine changes, but normal service resumed against Poland in the knockouts with another Mbappe brace.
Despite being outplayed for large parts against England in the quarterfinals, France channelled their 2018 World Cup-winning form with a perfect blend of ruthlessness and efficiency to win 2-1 after Harry Kane’s missed penalty. A weakened Morocco were dispatched 2-0 in the semifinals, and now Les Bleus have a chance to complete an incredible double.