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For Lionel Messi, France is the perfect challenge as he chases immortality


AL KHOR, Qatar — That is the way it needed to be. For Lionel Messi to have all of it — the win, the story, the fairytale, the final word stamp of immortality — that is the one.

That is the sport, the World Cup ultimate (Sunday, 10 a.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports activities app). And that is the best opponent, reigning champion France, and there is no legitimate argument to be made in any other case.

There might have been spicier and extra tribal finals, like if the draw and the bracket had lined as much as pit Messi and his colleagues in opposition to neighborly rival Brazil.

There might have been a extra historically-edged showdown for the trophy, like if Argentina had come up in opposition to a former political and navy foe in England.

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Argentina’s Lionel Messi, left, and Saudi Arabia’s Abdulelha Al-Malki, struggle for the ball throughout a World Cup Group C soccer match at Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar, Nov. 22, 2022.
(AP Picture/Ebrahim Noroozi)

And there may need been a decider that supplied, in most minds, the next likelihood of triumph, had Morocco continued its dream run to make all of it the best way to the ultimate.

However that is essentially the most becoming battle for the title and the best method for it to play out. Messi, some of the extraordinary particular person soccer abilities the world will ever identified, will search his future in opposition to the imposing battalion of a near-perfect group.

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France, below head coach Didier Deschamps, has cracked the code on this mystifying puzzle of learn how to get gamers who spend just about all their time enjoying for various golf equipment to come back collectively as a cohesive unit that works with a singular thoughts.

They did it 4 years in the past in Russia, they usually’re after it once more. And so they’re maybe the one soccer lovers on the planet with zero curiosity within the sentimentality surrounding Messi’s drive for the one worthwhile soccer achievement to have eluded his clutch.

France's Theo Hernandez celebrates next to ‎Ethan Mbappé after scoring his side's first goal during a World Cup semifinal match against Morocco at Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022. 

France’s Theo Hernandez celebrates subsequent to ‎Ethan Mbappé after scoring his aspect’s first aim throughout a World Cup semifinal match in opposition to Morocco at Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022. 
(AP Picture/Francisco Seco)

In ending the pleasant run of Morocco on the semifinals in Al Bayt Stadium Wednesday, France lower quick this World Cup’s most pleasant underdog story. Messi’s march towards even deeper posterity is a distinct form of story, one centered round superstar-level excellence quite than against-the-odds pluck.

Or is it? For the bookies will favor France this weekend, such is Les Blues’ stage of domination and the best way it appears capable of deal with any form of impediment.

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Fact be instructed, if Deschamps is ready to think about a Messi-stifling sport plan and if his gamers can execute it — like Germany did within the 2014 showpiece — the European aspect will should retain its cloak of invincibility and that chunk of sculpted gold that all of them play for.

Eight years in the past, Messi endured some of the irritating nights of his profession. He did not play poorly within the greatest sport of all, however the Germans had a solution for the whole lot he did.

Lionel Messi of Argentina during a FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group C match between Argentina and Saudi Arabia at Lusail Stadium Nov. 22, 2022, in Lusail City, Qatar. 

Lionel Messi of Argentina throughout a FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group C match between Argentina and Saudi Arabia at Lusail Stadium Nov. 22, 2022, in Lusail Metropolis, Qatar. 
(Catherine Ivill/Getty Pictures)

Typically it was Philip Lahm crossing his path and slowing his stride. Or Mats Hummels refusing him house to show, or Bastian Schweinsteiger monitoring backward to limit and harry him. When, on the finish of that sport in Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana Stadium, a Mario Goetze aim was the one distinction and Messi acquired the Golden Ball awarded to the perfect participant of the match, it virtually felt like an insult.

France will hope for the same end result.

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“Messi has been in scintillating type for the reason that starting of the match,” Deschamps stated. “He’s selecting up the ball lots and working with it and is in nice type. In fact, he is likely one of the greatest on the earth and has proven that. We’re going to attempt to counter Messi’s risk and cease him influencing the sport.”

They are going to accomplish that with craft and complexity. Messi, as a result of that is on the root of the whole lot he does, will look for a similar. He is aware of Deschamps’ thoughts is whirring with methods to cease him, even within the rapid hours following France’s semifinal win.

Argentina's Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring Argentina's second goal during a World Cup quarterfinal soccer against the Netherlands at the Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar, Friday, Dec. 9, 2022. 

Argentina’s Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring Argentina’s second aim throughout a World Cup quarterfinal soccer in opposition to the Netherlands on the Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar, Friday, Dec. 9, 2022. 
(AP Picture/Francisco Seco)

And Messi’s mind is ticking over too, imagining, predicting, analyzing with precision in order that he can play free and ready, with the pure pleasure that makes his sport so globally cherished.

There shall be speak of different duels inside the ultimate and sure, they’re part of it. However the huge story shall be France’s Messi grasp plan and whether or not the little maestro has one final World Cup hurrah loud sufficient to beat it?

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Nicely, there lies the competition. And the destiny of the World Cup. And whether or not Messi’s profession resume will perpetually have soccer’s greatest prize listed on it.

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