The World Cup final is almost always the biggest match in the football calendar, regardless of which teams are playing, but for the world press, Sunday afternoon’s match has received special billing.
Argentina will face France at the Lusail Stadium, and while there will be 22 hugely gifted players on display and several key matches, the clash between Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe will surely take center stage.
France faced Argentina back in 2018 in Russia with Mbappe inspiring a French victory, but Albiceleste coach Leo Scaloni could surprise Didier Deschamps and Co.
Kylian Mbappe can seal his second World Cup title in just 23 years with victory over Argentina
Lionel Messi could become the first Argentine to lift the trophy since Diego Maradona in 1986
Both players have excelled in Qatar and top the goalscoring charts with five – although Messi is also joint top of the playmaker table with a further three assists.
And media outlets around the world have wasted no time shedding light on the upcoming matchup, which promises to pit the two leading players in the world right now against each other.
L’Equipe has led with ‘For Eternity’ ahead of Sunday afternoon’s World Cup final
For Messi, it potentially represents his last chance to add that all-important World Cup winners medal to the most glittering trophy cabinet the game has ever seen, and the opportunity to finally put to rest any doubt that he belongs with the likes of Pele and Diego Maradona like an immortal football.
But as for Mbappe, Sunday’s final could see him walk away with a second World Cup before his 24th birthday, having lifted the trophy in Russia four years ago.
Perhaps playing on the seriousness of the occasion, L’Equipe led with the headline ‘Pour Eternite’, or ‘For Eternity’, accompanied by a graphic of both players kissing the iconic trophy.
There is a ring of truth to the infamous French outlet’s title, with the winner of the tournament etching their name firmly into history, although there is an argument to be made that by the end of both careers they will have indelibly written themselves into the fabric of football. .
And similarly, Spanish newspaper Sport and Italian newspaper Quotidiano Sportivo call the clash ‘A date with history’ (‘Cita Con La Historia’ in Spanish and ‘Appuntamento Con La Storia’ in Italian).
Spain’s Sport and Italy’s Quotidiano Sportivo have both labeled the final “A Date With History”
Other publications from Spain have seen the final in a different light, with Marca leading the battle for a third star.
The winner of each World Cup traditionally has a star stitched onto their jerseys above the badge, and both sides have won the tournament twice previously – Argentina in 1978 and 1986, and France in 1998 and 2018.
Their headline in Sunday’s edition is “Una Final Tres Estrellas”, or “One Final, Three Stars”.
For Diario AS, on the other hand, the final takes on a more important complexion and is referred to as the battle for outright royalty, with the headline “solo Habra Un Rey” or “There Will Only Be One King”.
Marca has led the battle for a third WC star and Diario AS considered the final as a battle to become the one “King”
There is a sense of finality in Italy from both Corriere dello Sport and La Gazetta Sportiva.
The former have called the encounter ‘L’Ultimo tango di Leo’, or ‘Leo’s last tango’, with the Argentine skipper confirming ahead of the match that this will be his last World Cup tournament for the Albiceleste.
And the latter has gone with ‘Il Finimondo’, or ‘The End Of The World’ above a graphic of both stars holding up the globe.
The world will continue to turn regardless of the result in Qatar, but for both players there is a lot at stake, with La Gazetta claiming that Mbappe will follow “in the footsteps of Pele” if he can win a second World Cup on 23.
There is a sense of finality for some Italian publications ahead of Sunday’s showpiece finale
But for Dutch Sportwereld, it is not the French star striker Messi will have to contend with out there in Qatar.
Sportwereld has asked if Messi can match Diego Maradona’s World Cup victory
The 35-year-old has been compared to the great Maradona since he could lace up his boots, and what separates the two in the eyes of many critics is a World Cup title.
The Dutch newspaper has led with the headline ‘Kan Hij Het Ook?’, or ‘Can He Do It Too?’, with a side-by-side photo of the couple on the front page.
No matter what he achieves on the pitch, or how many Ballon d’Or awards he wins, he has always been criticized for not replicating his exploits on the international stage.
He silenced many of those critics with success in the 2021 Copa America, but defeat to Les Bleus could reopen that debate – rightly or wrongly – once again.
He will never escape the legacy of the 1986 World Cup winner, and Messi himself will be the first to honor ‘Don Diego’, but he can at least match his country’s hero with success on Sunday.
Mbappe inspired France to a thrilling 4-3 victory over Argentina four years ago at Russia 2018
The PSG striker will undoubtedly carry the expectations of a generation of football fans with him, and his country’s media have certainly made that clear.
Argentinian outlet Clarin have run with ‘Messi y la Seleccion, Por El Eueno de Todos’, or ‘Messi And The Team, For The Dreams Of All’, which naturally led their national hero.
But Brazilian outlet Correio do Povo has echoed calls from Europe that it is very much a battle between two of world football’s key figures, claiming “Argentina and France fight through Messi and Mbappe for a third title”.
The rivalry between the Albiceleste and the Selecao for football dominance in South America is notorious, but the Brazilian media seems to have put it to bed to focus on today’s final.