The anticipation and excitement is building ahead of Saturday’s blockbuster World Cup final between Argentina and France. A close encounter is expected between two giants of the international game, with arguably the two best players on the planet in Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe going up against each other to bring down the curtain on Qatar’s showpiece tournament
While both teams will have more than enough motivation to claim the famous trophy, the match may be given an extra bit of needle due to derogatory comments Mbappe made in the not-too-distant past about the quality of South American football.
Speaking earlier this year in an interview with TNT Brasil about the qualification process to reach the finals of the World Cup, Mbappe said: “Argentina haven’t played games of great quality to reach the World Cup. In South America football isn’t as advanced as Europe. That’s why if you look at the last World Cups it’s always the Europeans that win.”
His comments did not seem to go down well at all on the continent, and Argentina forward Lautaro Martinez was among those to show his displeasure. “Most of those of us who have been called up are in Europe and every day, even every training, you measure up against them,” he fired back.
“That’s why I’ll say that we’re feeling good and working on the ideas the trainer asks of us. We are happy with how it’s working and what we’re doing on the field. I saw what [Mbappe] said, but Argentina and Brazil have players of great quality and talent. Brazil, just like us, has most of its players in Europe. I thought it was an unfair comment.”
Goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez agreed with his teammate. “Bolivia in La Paz, Ecuador with 30-degree celsius heat, Colombia where you can’t even breathe… they (in Europe) always play on perfect pitches and have no idea what South America is all about,” he snapped.
“Every time you travel with the national team you’ve got two days coming and going, you are exhausted and can’t train much. When an England player goes to train they are at the ground in half an hour. Let them go to Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and see if it is that easy.”
Both players will be determined to prove Mbappe wrong once and for all when they take to the field on Sunday. France are regarded as the slight favourites with most ahead of the encounter, but most neutrals will be supporting Argentina as they hope for a perfect World Cup swansong for the legendary Messi.
The 35-year-old has already confirmed that this will be the final time he plays in the competition, and he will be desperate to go out in a blaze of glory. “There’s a lot of years until the next one and I don’t think I have it in me and finishing like this is best,” he said after his side’s 3-0 semi-final win over Croatia.
“[I feel] a lot of happiness to be able to achieve this. To finish my World Cup career playing my last game in a final. Everything I’ve lived in this World Cup, what people experienced and how much the people back in Argentina are enjoying it all is very emotional.”