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SPORTS | 15-12-2022 10:19

Deschamps: France ready to stop Messi and Argentina

Delighted France coach Didier Deschamps looks forward to final against Argentina.

France will face Argentina and Kylian Mbappé will do battle with Lionel Messi in a heavyweight World Cup final after the French beat underdogs Morocco 2-0 on Wednesday.

Holders France stayed on course to become the first team in 60 years to successfully defend the trophy thanks to goals from Theo Hernandez and Randal Kolo Muani at Al Bayt Stadium.

Morocco, the first African side ever to reach a World Cup semi-final, battled as they have done throughout the tournament and were roared on by a crowd predominantly decked out in red and green.

But Azzedine Ounahi's shot in the final minutes that was cleared off the goalline by Jules Kounde was arguably their best chance.

France reached the final for the fourth time in seven editions and if they triumph at Lusail Stadium on Sunday they will be the first team since Brazil in 1962 to retain the trophy.

They were congratulated in the dressing room by French President Emmanuel Macron, who had flown to Qatar on Wednesday to watch the match.

Delighted France coach Didier Deschamps said: "There is emotion and pride. Obviously it was another important step today and now there will be another one. We've been together for a month. It's never easy, but here it is – it's been a joy so far and my players have been rewarded."

The final will inevitably be billed as a battle between Messi and his Paris Saint-Germain teammate Mbappé.

Argentina though will look at moments of French defensive fragility that Messi and Julián Álvarez – scorer of two goals in Tuesday's semi-final win against Croatia – will relish exploiting.

Messi, playing in his fifth World Cup, has been a man on a mission in Qatar, desperate to crown his career by leading Argentina to their first World Cup crown since Diego Maradona led them to the 1986 title.

"Messi has been in scintillating form since the start of the tournament," Deschamps admitted.

"Four years ago things were different. He played as a centre forward, whereas now he is playing in a front two or just in behind the striker.

"He looks in great shape and of course he is one of the best players in the world so we will try to counter Messi's threat as much as possible, just as Argentina will try to stop the influence of some of my players."

 

– TIMES/AFP

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