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

AL KHOR, Qatar – It was meant to be. For Lionel Messi to have it all: the victory, the history, the fairy tale, the definitive seal of immortality, this is the one.

This is the game, the World Cup Final (Sunday, 10 a.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app). And that is the right opponent, the reigning French champions, and there is no valid argument that can be made otherwise.

There could be spicier, more tribal finales, as if the draw and support had lined up to pit Messi and his teammates against neighboring rivals Brazil.

There could have been a more historic showdown for the trophy, with Argentina facing an old political and military foe in England.

And there might have been a decision that offered, in most minds, a higher probability of victory, had Morocco continued their dream run to reach the final.

But this is the most appropriate title battle and the right way to go about it. Messi, one of the most extraordinary individual football talents the world has ever known, will seek his destiny against the towering battalion of a near-perfect team.

Breaking down Lionel Messi’s legendary performance

Breaking down Lionel Messi's legendary performance

France, under head coach Didier Deschamps, have cracked the code to the perplexing puzzle of how to get players who spend virtually all their time playing for different clubs to come together as a cohesive unit that works with a singular mind.

They did it four years ago in Russia and they’re doing it again, and they may be the only football lovers on the planet with zero interest in the sentimentality surrounding Messi’s bid for the only footballing success worth having. escaped from his clutches.

By ending Morocco’s delicious run at the semi-final stage at the Al Bayt Stadium on Wednesday, they cut the funniest underdog story of this World Cup. Messi’s march to even deeper posterity is a different kind of tale, one centered on superstar-level excellence rather than a bet against the odds.

Kylian Mbappé and France BUILD their way to the 2022 FIFA World Cup finals

Kylian Mbappé and France BUILD their way to the 2022 FIFA World Cup finals

Or is it? Because the bookies will favor France this weekend, that is The Blues’ level of dominance and the way he seems able to deal with any kind of obstacle.

The truth is that if Deschamps is able to come up with a game plan that stifles Messi and if his players can execute it, as Germany did in the 2014 spectacle, the European team would deserve to retain their mantle of invincibility and this carved piece of gold. that they all play

Eight years ago, Messi endured one of the most frustrating nights of his career. He didn’t play badly in the most important game of all, but the Germans had an answer for everything he did.

Sometimes it was Philip Lahm crossing his path and slowing his pace. Either Mats Hummels denying him the space to turn, or Bastian Schweinsteiger dropping back to restrict and trouble him. When, at the end of that game at the Maracanã stadium in Rio de Janeiro, a goal from Mario Goetze was the only difference and Messi received the Ballon d’Or awarded to the best player of the tournament, it almost seemed like an insult .

France will hope for a similar result.

“Messi has been in brilliant form since the start of the tournament,” said Deschamps. “He takes the ball a lot and runs with it and is in great form. Of course he is one of the best in the world and he has shown that. We will try to counter the threat of Messi and prevent him from influencing the game.”

Did Argentina’s Lionel Messi prove he is the GOAT after victory against Croatia?

Did Argentina's Lionel Messi prove he is the GOAT after victory against Croatia?

They will do it with craftsmanship and complexity. Messi, because this is the root of everything he does, will seek the same. He knows Deschamps’ mind is thinking of ways to stop him, even in the immediate hours after France’s semi-final win.

And Messi’s brain ticks too, imagining, predicting, analyzing with precision so he can play free and ready, with the natural joy that makes his game so beloved worldwide.

Other duels will be discussed in the final and yes, they are part of it. But Messi’s French master plan and if the little master has one last shot at the world strong enough to conquer it?

Well, therein lies the contest. And the fate of the World Cup. And if the resume of Messi’s career will forever have the biggest award in football.

Lionel Messi’s leadership and talent helped Argentina advance to the World Cup final

Lionel Messi's leadership and talent helped Argentina advance to the World Cup final

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Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX i subscribe to the daily newsletter.

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