Wow. What a final. The 2022 World Cup showed quite a bit of promise for having a tournament halfway through the season, and the final lived up to expectation as one of the best in years. Argentina came out flying on all cylinders, with France looking shell-shocked for the entire first half. But through the efforts of Mbappé and a few others, they eventually clawed their way back to force the game into extra time, and then penalty kicks. Here is our analysis of the 2022 World Cup Final between Argentina and France.
Argentina surprised many by setting up in more of an attack-minded 4-3-3 than the 4-4-2 they put together against Croatia. Angel di Maria secured his starting position ahead of Leandro Paredes, and this proved to be a match-winning decision. The Argentinean wing wizard played a perfect part in the victory, causing chaos up and down the left wing. This then allowed Messi to play in a free role down the other side as a bit of a false winger, with Rodrigo De Paul and Nahuel Molina nicely selecting their moments to gallop forward.
The key element to Di Maria playing off the left was however not in the balance they were looking to create on the other side, but in the overloads they were looking to create down the Juve man’s wing. As the more adventurous attacking midfielder, Alexis Mac Allister played up and down the half-spaces, but far more ‘up’ than ‘down’ in truth.Embed from Getty Images
He’s been one of the key attacking threats for Scaloni’s team throughout the tournament, and thrived in the match once more as Di Maria and Messi attracted all the attention. Mac Allister could then float up into the spaces in behind Messi or into nice pockets of space as Di Maria dribbled past defenders, constantly wreaking havoc on a shell-shocked French midfield. The likes of Mac Allister were never afraid to strike from distance, and this constantly just installed more fear into the French formation.Embed from Getty Images
They continued in that 4-3-3 shape from a defensive perspective, with Lionel Messi playing a minimal defensive role. The goal, particularly in the first half, was to put constant pressure on the French everywhere else, through any means necessary. They disrupted the play with several niggly fouls in the opening minutes of the game as the Argentineans pushed (literally) and probed around the field with all their might. De Paul led that mindset through and through, constantly hurrying the play away from central channels. Equally brilliant was Enzo Fernández, who managed 10 tackles in his 120 minutes of actions, helping to nullify the threat of Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud.Embed from Getty Images
Fernandez did a magnificent job screening both players inside the opening forty minutes before Giroud’s withdrawal, and the two centre-backs in behind crunched the French front-line and disallowed them any room to breathe.
This, from an Argentinean perspective, was the most tenacious we’ve seen from them at the tournament. They were constantly on the front-foot, constantly banging on the door, and it was no surprise whatsoever to see them score two goals inside the first half, and eventually go on and win the game.
France never quite realized they were playing in a World Cup Final until halfway through the second half. Or maybe they did, and that’s why they weren’t able to play to their full ability. For whatever reason, the French were bamboozled, at a loss for words as Argentina ran circles around their structure.
The initial starting blocks of their high-block swapped in between a 4-2-3-1 and 4-2-4, which allowed the likes of De Paul, Mac Allister and Messi to get on the ball in the half-spaces and pull French players out of position. The French were perhaps too rigid in going man to man, which is never a good idea against players with the skill level of Messi and Di Maria. The variety of Argentina’s 2-1-4-3-esque shape out from the back led to many moments of bright and positive possession from Scaloni’s team, and Otamendi had no trouble carrying the ball out from the back against Giroud and co.
As the Argentineans took control, France scattered across the pitch out of desperation, leaving large holes in the team that could be exploited quickly in transition.
Much to France’s chagrin, they left themselves with more problems to solve than one by positioning Theo Hernández high up the pitch, where Dayot Upamecano felt even more incentivized to get on the ball and drive up the field. In doing so, they left more space on Messi’s side of the field for the Argentineans to go on the counter.
Compounding matters, they were uncharacteristically sloppy in possession, needlessly giving the ball away in dangerous areas. Argentina were excellent with their anticipation and intercepting, but also had the ball handed to them on several occasions. On the break, the first look was always directly into the wide areas, typically on the side of the player who had lost the ball in their attempts to make something of a forward-thinking thrust. This is where Angel di Maria thrived, tearing Jules Koundé to shreds. In fact, Raphaël Varane was constantly put into a position where he had a decision to make – either leave his position and put pressure on the wing wizard, thus vacating Julian Alvarez, or stick with the City striker and wait for Koundé to catch up.
I’ve been surprised all tournament long by the selection of the Barca defender over Benjamin Pavard, and I think this is where it finally caught up to Koundé, and he looked vastly out of his depth as a fullback.
The substitutions of Randal Kolo Muani, Marcus Thuram and Kingsley Coman helped to spark new energy into the team in the second half, injecting the necessary speed and energy into the side. Mbappé could then have more of a free role as he floated in between the ‘9’ position and those left-half-spaces that he already loves to roam. Beyond scoring a bag of penalties, Mbappé had a brilliant end to the match with his pace, incisiveness and sheer determination all coming to the forefront as the match died down.Embed from Getty Images
Unfortunately for the French, the efforts of the Golden Boot winner weren’t enough to cure the porous nature of their defending, and they were ultimately punished in the end on penalty kicks.
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In the end, Lionel Messi now has a World Cup triumph to add to his name (and his illustrious career), with the Argentineans taking home their third World Cup win. Be sure to check out more of our World Cup articles and relive all the action. Also be sure to follow on social media @mastermindsite and @desmondrhys. Thanks for reading and see you soon!
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