South America’s first talent factory faces off against Europe’s first talent factory

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<p><figcaption class=Photograph: Noushad Thekkayil/EPA

AND THEN THEY WERE TWO

The Human Rights World Cup is coming to Qatar. Long live Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani. Long live Gianni Infantino, resident of Doha. Long live Hassan al-Thawadi, fan of They Think It’s All Over. Special congratulations to Nasser al-Khelaifi, president of Qatar Sports Investments, president of Paris Saint-Germain, president of the European Club Association and one of the most powerful suits in global sport, because his boys, Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappé, will be in the final on Sunday. Too bad for Neymar, but you can’t win them all, as PSG discover every year in the Big Cup.

The stage is set for Argentina-France, the first talent factory of South America against the first talent factory of Europe. And, in these times of strong bias for current events, the outgoing world’s best player ever for the incoming world’s best player ever. The youngster didn’t do it all alone in Wednesday’s semi-final against Morocco. Achraf Hakimi, another Al-Khelaifi asset at PSG, kept Mbappé quiet for long periods, even though he played key roles in both French goals. Mbappé and Hakimi shared a moment of respect for Bobby Moore-Pele afterward, and then kicked into the tunnel. It’s just these guys, you know.

This is a World Cup like no other. For the past 12 years the Guardian has reported on Qatar 2022 issues, from corruption and human rights abuses to the treatment of migrant workers and discriminatory laws. The best of our journalism is gathered on our dedicated Qatar: Beyond the Football homepage for those who want to delve into issues beyond the pitch.

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Mbappé, while he may grow with the speed of a nitro-boosted cheetah, shares his Argentine counterpart’s ability to be there for those moments that change games and thereby shape international history. And at 23 he already has a World Cup winner’s medal. At 35, Messi is chasing the ghost of Diego Maradona when his predecessor as the world’s best player inspired Argentina to glory at Mexico ’86, a full 10 years his junior. It will not be easy.

Which of them has the superior supporting cast? Antoine Griezmann’s conversion has turned him into an attacking midfielder of the caliber of Andrea Pirlo and Andrés Iniesta, while Messi has powerful worker bee support in Julián Álvarez. Aurélien Tchouaméni has made Paul Pogba a distant memory, while Enzo Fernández, who can fill three midfield positions at once, will be a name to crash the search engines when the transfer window opens in – sigh – 16 days! There are also weaknesses. Théo Hernandez scored a fine goal against Morocco, but he can be caught, as Bukayo Saka showed. Nicolas Otámendi will always be Otámendi. Therein lies an intrinsic beauty of international football. Not even Al-Khelaifi can spend big money on replenishing a national team. Thus the World Cup retains at least one gram of purity.

LIVE ON A GREAT WEBSITE

There is no HRWC action but the Women’s Big Cup can provide you with your MBM kicks. Join Sarah Rendell from 19:00 GMT for coverage of Arsenal 1-1 Lyon.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“Stories of stolen paychecks and broken dreams are part of our daily lives. We are all too familiar with the images of coffins arriving at Tribhuvan International Airport… We therefore ask you, President Infantino, to stop looking the other way as citizens of our country – and all other nationalities – see each other deny their rights” – a statement opened a letter from more than three dozen Nepali civil society groups demanding compensation from FIFA for Qatari workers who they say have been abused and families who have lost loved ones.

FOOTBALL DAILY LETTERS

I’ve always been struck by the great national football team that plays in dark blue shirts: their immense talent, their winning mentality, their sublime skills, their bravado… They are pure joy and a real pleasure to watch. So when exactly does Scotland’s Euro 2024 qualifying campaign start?” – Bogdan Kotarlic.

It seems that Mateo Kovacic (News, Bits and Bobs yesterday) and I have something in common. He never talks about the referees; I never send hastily written, ill-considered emails to the Daily. It’s creepy, really” – Edward Dean.

I quite like… well I moderately like what you did with the balance between the header and main image of yesterday’s email edition, which obviously makes Football Daily look different on Big website. I can’t wait – sort of – to see what your image editors come up with in the future” – Claire Henderson.

Send your letters to the.boss@theguardian.com. Today’s winner of our invaluable letter of the day is… Bogdan Kotarlic.

RECOMMENDED LISTENING

Bring your listening gear around the latest HRWC Football Daily podcast. If you need an extra nudge – surely not – here’s a taste.

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