Argentina, France Are Counting On These Players

Teams have potential heroes beyond Messi and Mbappé
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 17, 2022 5:10 PM CST
Beyond Messi and Mbappé: Here Are Potential Heroes
France's Kylian Mbappe, right, and Marcus Thuram practice Friday in Qatar.   (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Lionel Messi will line up for Argentina and Kylian Mbappé will be on the opposite side for France on Sunday in the World Cup final in Qatar. Messi has been there before but lost in the 2014 final to Germany. Mbappé won the 2018 title after scoring a goal against Croatia. However, neither will be able to win the gold trophy entirely on their own at Lusail Stadium. Here is a look at key players on both teams, per the AP, and their coaches:


  • Lionel Messi: The 35-year-old is the heart and soul of the Argentina team, the tournament's co-leading scorer with five goals; he's tied for the most assists with three. Look for the Paris Saint-Germain forward to burst into creative life when he sees a chance to make something happen. A World Cup title would finally complete Messi's elevation alongside Diego Maradona to icon status.
  • Julian Alvarez: He made it off the bench to replace Lautaro Martinez as the World Cup progressed and scored four goals in four starts with Argentina. The 22-year-old Manchester City player is a powerful runner who created a perfect partnership with Messi in the 3-0 win over Croatia in the semifinals.
  • Emiliano Martinez: An imposing 6-foot-4 goalkeeper with a personality to match his stature, "Dibu" would be favored if the final goes to a penalty shootout. The 30-year-old Aston Villa keeper made key saves in Argentina's shootout win over the Netherlands in the quarterfinals and in last year's Copa America semifinals.
  • Nahuel Molina: An energetic fullback with the toughness expected of any Argentina defender, the 24-year-old Atletico Madrid defender also has attacking instincts. He received the no-look pass of the tournament from Messi to score against the Netherlands.
  • Enzo Fernandez: The 21-year-old started the tournament as a substitute but was in the team to stay after scoring with his fast feet and a curling shot in Argentina's victory over Mexico. The Benfica player anchors the center of midfield and will be trying to stop Antoine Griezmann's forward forays.
  • Lionel Scaloni: The coach was an assistant at the 2018 World Cup—when Argentina exited in the round of 16 against France–and is now an unheralded success in the top job. Scaolni brought a 35-game unbeaten run to Qatar that included ending a long wait for a Copa America last year. The 44-year-old has succeeded in surrounding Messi with a midfield that lets him flourish.


  • Kylian Mbappe: He's his team's fastest, most dynamic scoring threat. The 23-year-old Paris Saint-Germain forward is tied with Messi with a World Cup-leading five goals. A standout game against Argentina will place him among the all-time greats.
  • Antoine Griezmann: The 31-year-old Griezmann has been a revelation for France in the tournament. Once a goal-scoring winger, the Atletico Madrid forward has added relentless defensive protection to his creative craft. A duel could develop with Messi between the lines of Argentina's attack.
  • Hugo Lloris: The 35-year-old Tottenham goalkeeper is poised to become the first-ever captain of two World Cup-winning teams. A quiet-spoken leader by example, he now holds France's all-time appearance record.
  • Raphael Varane: At his third World Cup, the 29-year-old Varane is a fixture in the center of a France defense that keeps changing because of injury and illness. The four-time Champions League winner at Real Madrid is back to near his elegant best after an injury scare in October.
  • Aurelien Tchouameni: He arrived on the world stage ahead of schedule in the midfield role Paul Pogba had for France four years ago. He matched Pogba's shooting power with his goal against England. Learning at Real Madrid this season, after spurning Mbappé's urging to go to PSG, should prepare the 22-year-old midfielder for facing Argentina.
  • Didier Deschamps: In his 11th year as France coach, Deschamps can become only the second man to lead two World Cup-winning teams and the first since 1938. The 54-year-old Deschamps has integrated inexperienced players to replace injured veterans without losing any of his team's typical calm assurance.
(More 2022 World Cup stories.)

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