France prepare to face Argentina in the final showdown

The World Cup final will be a mouthwatering encounter between holders France and two-time winners Argentina.

France overcame an incredibly difficult semi-final against Morocco 24 hours after Argentina ended Croatia’s dreams of glory.

Here, the PA news agency looks back on the second semi-final and looks ahead to Sunday’s masterpiece.

Last place of the book Les Bleus

France survived a big scare before defeating a wonderful Moroccan team to secure a place in the final.

Les Bleus – who could become the first nation since revered 1962 Brazil to retain the trophy – were pushed all the way before securing a hard-fought 2-0 win to book a fixture with Lionel Messi and company at the Lusail Stadium on Sunday night .

Theo Hernandez scored early, but Morocco, the first African semi-finalists in history, more than matched their illustrious opponents.

Only a mix of post and outstretched glove from Hugo Lloris prevented Jawad El Yamiq from equalizing with a superb bicycle kick, one of many chances for the underdogs as the tie remained in the balance.

Only substitute Randal Kolo Muani’s first goal for France, following a labyrinthine run from Kylian Mbappe, settled matters in the closing stages.

Messi versus Mbappé

PSG teammates Mbappe and Messi will tiptoe to each other (Julien Poupart/PA)

The buildup will no doubt center around the two superstars of the game.

Messi, at the age of 35, is looking to win his first World Cup in what – in all likelihood – will be his last tournament.

His Paris St Germain team-mate Mbappe, 12 years his junior, will join an elite group of players in making a successful title defense should France repeat their Russia 2018 feat.

To add to the subplot, Messi and Mbappe jointly lead the race for the Golden Boot with five goals each.

Messi has failed to score in just one of his six opening games, although three goals have come from the penalty spot.

Mbappe drew a blank three times; once as a 63rd-minute substitute in defeats against Tunisia and others against England, in the quarter-finals and in the semi-finals against Morocco.

Another record awaits

Argentina v Croatia – 2022 FIFA World Cup – Semi Final – Lusail Stadium

The World Cup final awaits you (Martin Rickett/PA)

Messi is set to make a record 26 finals appearances.

Tuesday’s semi-final at the Lusail Stadium was his 25th, equaling the record held by former Germany midfielder Lothar Matthaus.

Allez, the president’s men

France v Morocco – 2022 FIFA World Cup – Semi Final – Al Bayt Stadium

Emmanuel Macron (right) with FIFA President Gianni Infantino (Martin Rickett/PA)

French President Emmanuel Macron was at the Al Bayt stadium to cheer on Les Bleus.

Afterwards, he tweeted: “Thanks Blues. Now the Cup!

“To our Moroccan friends. Congratulations on this beautiful journey. You are writing football history.”

Mor to come

France v Morocco – 2022 FIFA World Cup – Semi Final – Al Bayt Stadium

Morocco fans applaud their team (Adam Davy/PA)

Morocco, dogged by their raucous fanbase which has been one of the delights of the tournament, are yet to battle for third place.

They will face Croatia in the third/fourth place play-off at the Khalifa International Stadium on Saturday.

Croatia will compete for the second time in the bronze medal match. In 1998, in their first World Cup, Croatia beat the Netherlands 2-1.

Photo of the day

France v Morocco – 2022 FIFA World Cup – Semi Final – Al Bayt Stadium

Sofyan Amrabat summed up the Moroccan spirit when he came in to rob Kylian Mbappe, leaving the French star in a pile (Nick Potts/PA)

The tweet of the day

Next up

Croatia-Morocco, third-fourth place play-off (Saturday 3pm, BBC One)

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