Best bets for the Argentina-France World Cup match
Sunday, 10 a.m. ET
It’s Nigel here for the final preview from this extraordinary World Cup in Qatar 2022. I hope you have enjoyed reading them as much as I have enjoyed writing them, and we go into the final game in great shape.
We have the Lionel Messi pick to be Player of the Tournament at +1200, and if Argentina goes on to land this, which I believe they will, then he is a certainty to land us that pick. We are on Argentina pre-tournament at +600, and they are currently -110, so that looks very big now. Their first game defeat to Saudi Arabia seems a long time ago. Messi, who has sealed any doubt he is the GOAT, is one game away from destiny and landing that one trophy that has eluded him, the biggest one of them all.
This has been the most controversial World Cup in history for off-the-field political issues, but from a football point of view, it has been terrific. From personal experience, I can tell you the stadiums and organization have been the best I have ever seen. The 62 games have seen shocks galore, but now we are down to the final two. and they are pre-tournament second favorites Argentina and third favorites, the current World Champions, France.
The French, under the stewardship of Didier Deschamps, survived a spirited performance by surprise package Morocco in the semifinal, winning 2-0 in the end. That scoreline suggests a much more comfortable evening than it was, but goals by Hernández and Muani were enough to make the final. The French are chasing history and looking to be only the third side to retain the World Cup after Italy (1934 and 1938) and Brazil (1958 and 1962), and they are -110 to do that. It would be an even more incredible achievement considering Deschamps arrived in Qatar without six regular players. No Paul Pogba, Karim Benzema, or N’Golo Kanté to name three who would have played in every game! They were not at their best against England in the quarterfinal, but they did the important thing and found a way to win 2-1. Goals have been mainly the preserve of veteran striker Olivier Giroud, who is in the form of his life with four goals. The French top scorer with five goals is the man to whom Messi soon will hand the best player in the world baton—Kylian Mbappé. Messi currently ties him with five and the destiny of the Golden Boot is another subplot in the final between the two great players.
France will be confident they can retain this trophy, but they were fortunate against England and Morocco who both missed many chances. They are not as impressive as the 2018 side who triumphed in Russia, but that is to be expected with so many key players missing.
Lionel Scaloni ‘s Argentina arrives here after beating Brazil’s conquerors Croatia in the semifinal 3-0. A penalty from Messi preceded two strikes from Julian Alvarez for a comfortable passage through to the final. What has been impressive, and is a positive for those of us who took the +600, is that Messi and company are moving through the gears and improving throughout the tournament. They survived a bad-tempered final-eight clash with the Netherlands and proved they can get physical if needed. But Maestro Messi will look to get on the ball and weave his magic. At times against Croatia, he looked unplayable. Argentina lost their last two World Cup Finals in 1990 and 2014, but Scaloni will feel his side can go one better.
These two nations have met 12 times with Argentina winning six times to France’s three with three draws. Their last meeting was a 4-3 classic won by France in the 2018 last 16.
The bookies can’t split the pair to win this World Cup with most sides at -110, and it’s a similar story on the regular time market with both teams +175 and the draw available at +195. In that market, the draw is most appealing and has started to see the money arrive for a stalemate.
The Argentinians will welcome back fullbacks Acuna and Montiel, who were both suspended for the semifinal. France has several players suffering from flu-like symptoms–a huge concern for Deschamps with Rabiot, Coman, and Upamecano worst affected, plus they have a few players who didn’t train today with knocks. Every time Mbappé coughs or sneezes, Deschamps' blood pressure will go through the roof until kickoff on Sunday.
As we come to the final, I would not swap my pre-tournament pick Argentina against this weakened French team with so many key players injured and a flu bug going around the camp. I believe they can be too strong and land this World Cup. Given the strong position we are in though, the smart pick is to hedge some of our potential profit on the French to win the trophy at -110. But my advice is to wait until closer to kickoff to make that play, as the public money is coming for Argentina and the team news from the French camp is far from positive. Whilst I believe Argentina will be the likely winner, France is the reigning World Champion, and in Mbappé they have a player who can beat any team singlehanded. With that in mind, we must hedge.
Let’s hope this incredible World Cup ends with Messi landing us both the World Cup pick at +600 and the player of the tournament at +1200, and then glides off into the sunset.
Nigel’s pre-tournament selection: Argentina +600
Further selection hedge bet: France to win the trophy at -110 (but wait until just before kickoff, as this price will move in our favor)